Saturday, November 24, 2012

on creativity and christianity

As both a committed artist AND a committed Christian, I often feel as if I'm floating somewhere between two extremes. Current culture (and general consensus) tells us the two are mutually exclusive... so for someone like myself, who considers herself fully both one and the other, articulating HOW the two influence each other makes for a somewhat sticky explanation. Will my professors/classmates/etc be able to take the work seriously if they know I'm thinking about Christian themes? What will fellow Christians think about my work if they find out how weirdly sexual it is? My work isn't overtly spiritual in the sense that many "Christian artists" strive for: art-making simply as a mode of worship - it's much more complicated and nuanced than that, and its hard to explain. I'm working on breaking things down (thesis, here I come)... in attempts to better articulate how my faith and belief in Christian theology really is central to my studio practice. And in the same manner I am perpetually reminded of how this urge to create, to make something of the world, is simply an expression of my humanness. I am made in the image of the Creator, therefor I too shall create.

Below are some books I've been reading... some of the better ones on the subject, I think.

"Creativeness is a work of man's God-like freedom, the revelation of the image of the Creator within him."
Nicolas Berdyaev in The Meaning of the Creative Act (p. 93) 

"Culture is the result of man's creative activity within God-given structures. So it can never be something apart from our faith. All our work is ultimately directed by our answer to the question of who - or what - our God is, and where for us the ultimate source of all reality and life lies. So our resulting 'culture' can never be something separate from our 'faith.' This is just as true for those that do not acknowledge the true God, the Creator: their cultural activity is coloured by their basic non-Christian faith. For the Christian the problem remains of how we have to deal with the culture around us, often the fruit of a non-Christian point of departure. But then this is dealt with at length and depth in the Bible itself: it is even one of the main concerns, and bound up with its teaching on sin, redemption, and sanctification."          
 Hans Rookmaaker in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (p.36)
"We make sense of the world by making something of the world. The human quest for meaning is played out in human making: the finger-painting, omelet-stirring, chair-crafting, snow-swishing activities of culture. Meaning and making go together - culture, you could say, is the activity of making meaning."

"But aside from the rare exceptions, religion is seldom mentioned in the art world unless it is linked to criticism, ironic distance, or scandal. Art critical of religion is itself criticized by conservative writers, and it is noted with interest by art critics, but sincerely religious art tends to be ignored by both kinds of writers. An observer of the art world might well come to the conclusion that religious ideas are not relevant to art unless they are treated with skepticism."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

sartre on the pre-sexual nature of holes (i'm freaking out right now)

... it should be said that I can now see more clearly something that I've long guessed at: pre-sexuality. The Freudians rightly saw that the innocent action of the child who plays at digging holes was not so innocent at all. Nor that which consists in sliding one's finger into some hole in a door or wall. They related it to the faecal pleasures which children take in being given or administering enemas. And they weren't wrong. But the core of the matter remains unclear: must all such experiences be reduced to the sole experience of anal pleasure? I shall point out that this supposes a mysterious divination of instinct: for the child who holds back his faeces in order to enjoy the pleasure of excretion has no means of guessing that he has an anus, nor that this anus presents a similarity with the holes into which - immediately - he seeks to put his fingers. In other words, Freud will consider that all holes, for the child, are symbolic anuses which attract him as a function of that kinship - whereas for my part I wonder whether the anus is not, in the child, an object of lust because it is a hole. 
 And certainly the arsehole is the most alive of holes, a lyrical hole, which puckers like a brow, which tightens in the way a wounded beast contracts, which finally gapes - conquered and ready to yield up its secrets. It is the softest and most hidden of holes, what you will - I have nothing against the Freudians composing hymns to the anus - but it remains the case that the cult of the hole is anterior to that of the anus, and that it is applied to a larger number of objects. And I'm quite prepared to grant that it gradually becomes imbued with sexuality, but I imagine that it is initially pre-sexual: in other words, that it contains sexuality in the undifferentiated state and extends beyond it. I think that the pleasure a child takes in giving enemas (numerous are those who play at doctor to have this pleasure: in my own case, one of my earliest memories is of my grandmother's arms raised to the heavens in a hotel-room at Seelisburg, because she'd just caught me in the middle of giving an enema to a little Swiss girl of my own age) is pre-sexualL it's the pleasure of poking into a hole. And the 'poking into a hole' situation is itself pre-sexual. By this we mean it is neither psychological nor historical; it does not suppose any connection, realized in the course of human experience, between orifices and our desires. 
But as soon as man appears in the world, the holes, the cracks, all the excavations that surround him become human. The world is a kingdom of holes. I see, in fact, that the hole is bound up with refusal, with negation and with Nothingness. The hole is first and foremost what is not. This nihilating function of the hole is revealed by such vulgar expressions heard here as 'arsehole with no buttocks' - which means 'naught' or 'nothingness'. To call an enemy an 'arsehole with no buttocks' is to annihilate him, to treat him as an empty idiot, a zero. For in popular imagery, of course, the buttocks form the rims of the anus. I notice, to, that people are bothered by the idea of the bottom of the hole. They talk about a 'well of stupidity', and about 'bottomless stupidity'. There is a seductive ambiguity here, a kind of shimmering of the finite and the infinite; in ever hole one expects to find a bottom - since it has rims - but on the other hand Nothingness is an infinite, since it could be bounded only by itself. So there is a lure of Nothingness - an ambiguous lure. Whence the game of hidey-hole. To enter a hidey-hole is originally to bury oneself in a hole, to annihilate oneself by identifying with the void that constitutes a hole. To protect oneself, it will be said. No doubt. But to protect oneself by annihilating oneself, by withdrawing into the invisible. 
Thus the hole's nothingness is a nothingness of man; it is at once death and freedom, negation of the social. One day I say a Fredian mother gazing tenderly at her little daughter crouched on all fours under the table. She was convinced that this liking of the child's for dark hidey-hole was a desire to return to the pre-natal state; she felt flattered, as if the child were knocking at her door and wished to return to the intimacy of her womb. I suppose she was already preparing to part her legs. But this is all nonsense. The vertiginous thrill of the hole comes from the fact that it proposes annihilation, it rescues from facticity. This nothingness is the attractive element in what is properly termed 'vertigo'. The abyss is a hole, it proposes engulfment. And engulfment always attracts, as a nihilation which would be its own foundation. Of course, attraction for the hole is accompanied by repulsion and anguish. But the hol's nothingness is coloured; it's a black nothingness, which causes another nature to intervene here, another cardinal category - Night. The nature of the hole is nocturnal. That's what confers upon its shady, mysterious, sacred character. And precisely because it is nocturnal, it conceals. Daytime holes are slishes of night. In the depths of the night there is something. The hole is sacred because it conceals. It is moreover, the occasion of a contact with what one doesn't see. The particular situation of the man who delves into a hole is that his hands meets enemies which his eyes cannot see. His ares are still in the kingdom  of light, but a whole blind part of himself has already gone down to hell. 
I have already mentioned that the hole is often resistance. It must be forced, in order to pass throguh. Thereby, it is already feminine. It is resistance by Nothingness, in other words modesty. This is obviously why it attracts sexuality (will to power, rape, etc.). But at the same time, in the act of poking into a hole - which is rape, breaking in, negation - we find the workman's act of plugging the hole. The child who sticks his finger into a hole in the ground experience the joy of (ful-)filling the hole. In a sense, all holes plead obscurely to be filled, they are appeals: to fill = triumph of the full over the empty, of existence over Nothingness. What is involved here is a craftsman's act. Expressions like 'plugging the gaps' or 'stop-gap' indicate clearly enough the human concern to achieve plentitude - in contrast with the vertiginous thrill of annihilation that is black magic. 
To plug a hole is to transform the empty into the full, and thereby, magically, to create material possessing al the features of the holed substance. If I plug a hole in a brick wall with earth, I have made a brick out of earth. Whence the tendency to plug holes with one's own substance, which brings about identification with the holes substance and, finally, metamorphosis. The child who sticks his finger into a hole in the ground becomes one with the ground which he plugs; he transforms himself into earth by his finger. 
At the root of these sorceries I rediscover the craftsman's idea of fitting-together - primitive aspect of necessity. Two bodies which fit together are made for each other. Fitting together magically entails fusion. One can see that the nature of the hole (pre-sexual_ will be very well suited to polarize almost all of sexuality, when the child will be able to think that he himself is the hole which is penetrated, on on the contrary that he can penetrate and plug with his own flesh a hole which lives hidden in a living body. But one can also see that - far from sexuality giving to holes its appeal for the child - it is, ont he contrary, the categorical nature of the hole that will constitute the basic layer of signification for the various species of sexual hole: vagina, anus, mouth, etc. And this doesn't at all mean the hole is not in itself an object of sexuality. It must be noted, however: 1. this this sexuality is undifferentiated, fused in the ensemble of human tendencies and of the human attitude towards the hole; 2. that it isn't directed to the hole derivatively, because the latter's analogy with the anus, but directly as constituent of its very structure. The hole - nocturnal female organ of nature, skylight to Nothingness, symbol of chaste and violated refusals, mouth of shadow which engulfs and assimilates - reflects back to man the human image of his own possibilities, like sliminess or flakiness. There can be - there is - human enjoyment that is not properly speaking sexual in filling a hole, just as there's a human enjoyment in scratching a flaky substance and breaking pieces off.
from War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phony War (1939-40) by Jeane-Paul Sartre - p. 149-152

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

student drawings

Susie B.
For the past few weeks in my Drawing 1 class (in which I am the TA) the students have been working on these lovely perspective drawings. I was responsible for leading this segment of the class and designing a project to go along with the lessons... so I assigned an architectural perspective drawing, using ink! Here are some of my favorites - didn't they do a great job?
Jean K.

Emily M.
Lily S. 
Yeeun L.
Laura R.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the first of many?

I think I'm onto something with this painted steel armature... must make more!

painted steel wire, fiberglass insulation, hog intestines, and silicone rubber


There's something odd about this one...  but in a good way (I think). The pink part was just a piece I chopped off of another sculpture - I literally just hung it on the wall as is and stuffed some hair behind it... it's like a weird head/face/bust - kind of like a deer head mount or something of that sort. It watches me when I'm working at my desk!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

new in the studio

It feels really good to be getting back into the metal shop- sometimes I forget how quick/easy steel is to work with!