What does it mean to be free? There has been much written about that but to me it means the utilization of omnipotent power. Do we have access to that? NO. That is why it is so difficult to come to terms with our insignificance.
In a purely subjective way I sometimes think: is something this precious insignificant? Referring to myself and all the vast space of potential in my brain. (I know what you are thinking.) It is in that space I see the dazzle of the glorious universe and the wonder of a blade of grass growing through a microscopic crack in a rock. A glimpse of eternity that I can't really be sure exists.
I must get over obsessing about these things and get back to pondering the pure gold sculpture by the artist, Maurizio Cattelan, as an existing, functional toilet at the Guggenheim. Viewers are invited to make use of the fixture individually and privately. Although I can appreciate this piece on many levels it may also be a good, rational reason to stop painting forever. I think that the idea of insignificance took over because I will never be able to produce something as solid and lasting as an 18-karat gold toilet. Nor could I ever find a way to make it possible for people to experience my work in such an intimate way.
Or how can I compete with the 176 emojis that are now in the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. Only 12 x 12 pixels in dimension, the brainchild of the Japanese designer, Shigetaka Kurita, these tiny graphics were deemed by MoMA to represent the evolution of ancient hieroglyphics. MoMA called the original emojis “humble masterpieces of design [that] planted the seeds for the explosive growth of a new visual language.” Hmm...
Here I regress and digress to past evolutions so that you may compare the progress of visual languages.
Then there is the work of Damien Hirst and how almost a million living creatures were sacrificed and pickled for his work to be born. I think most of them were flies but there were also at least 13 sheep, 7 Holstein Friesian cows, 5 baby calves, 4 bulls, 3 baby horses (with protruding horns to resemble unicorns), 2 pigs, 1 brown bear, 1 zebra, 17 sharks, and 668 individual fish of at least 38 varieties. Did Hirst experience omnipotence in his presiding domain over death? Was the pursuit of this illusive power the motivation to create works like these?
I think at least some of the motivation for making art is to experience a tiny cloud of sparkly fairy dust that feels like omnipotence. It feels like omnipotence because it may be the place in life where you have the most control over the environment, ie the canvas. Not that I'm a control freak but I do like to line up my shoes in pairs. And every once in a while I have a good but harmless idea that due to its utter invisibility and huge insignificance can be successfully enacted as a sheer exercise in the execution of power: private mischief that is too silly to share. Most of the time I confine this to my canvas and you may be aware of the humor that sometimes appears there.
Yesterday I learned a new word: 'thanatotic', used as an adjective describing a certain current president of a large western country. The word comes from the ancient Greek and alludes to the death wish or instinct especially in the context of violent tendencies. Once again with bodies falling out of planes and MOABS exploding somewhere, I have experienced insignificance.
But then I hear Alfredo Rodrigues on the surround speakers playing Viente Anos and I wonder about the reality of 'now' and how perfectly it can be perceived. The music itself has inherent omnipotence – it has soul. The soul perhaps of some long ago individual who inhabited the space in the musician's mind long enough for him to write or play the song.
Eternity could be fun.
So am I going to let some dead, bisected cows, a gold toilet, and some texting symbols erode my fictitious sense of omnipotence? I think until I can decode the current unwritten rules of valued artistic expression and find them to be irrefutable I am probably stuck with what I know and what I am curious about. Until the next flash of artistic enlightenment, I will continue to allow things to spontaneously bubble up from...somewhere, so that whatever arrives on the canvas will be wholly mine, ideally unadulterated by cultural expectation. I know this may not be wise but it is what I do the best. From my insignificant place of false omnipotence, my small world and the great world are one.
See more blog posts by Canadian artist Wendy Skog.
wendy skog abstract art studio copyright 2022 all rights reserved