Saturday, December 1, 2012

purposes for doing and making

One thing that I have been thinking about for the last couple months is the idea of my work, studio practice, and motivation for doing things being in line with folk music.  I don't mean the folk music of the 60's and 70's, rather music that is produced by a culture for its aesthetic and entertainment purposes (but an entertainment that is without an economic value).  In some ways this might be hard to make completely clear, and it is certainly something that I am still working through as an underpinning to my studio practices.  The best example I can think of are the types of music that Alan Lomax, a musician, ethnomusicologist, and anthropologist collected.  My understanding of Lomax's aim was to collect, preserve, and record music as cultural expressions.  Music, today, is a different sort of beast, at least to the majority of the United States and other 1st world countries, though I imagine it is different for everyone around the world--music is dominated by commodification.  

Another way of approaching what it is that I am trying to get at is by thinking about the end goals of production.   A recording I remember learning about in college--postal workers in Ghana canceling stamps--sticks out as a good example.  The recording is a multi-part song composed of a number of workers whistling to the rhythm of the percussion of their canceling stamps, which is a loud, dull, thud at amazing tempos.  This music was created, I imagine, for the purpose of doing something creative during work, not for commercial purposes.  The track comes from an ethnomusicology textbook called Worlds of Music, so I'm fairly certain the postal workers didn't get paid for the recording, nor did they want or need to: it would have happened regardless. 

Another way this comes up in my daily existence is with food, believe it or not.  There have been a number of times when I have made something for someone and they have said "you should sell this!".  I am confident in my cooking and baking skills, for sure, and it is always a nice comment to hear, in that it means that my food is commercially viable--i.e. it is at least as good as what you can buy in the store.  I think this is thought about more now with the recent boom in local eating and shopping--the market is much more receptive to locally produced goods that it was five years ago.  The importance of this, however, is that I have no interest in selling food products that I make.  I have a passion for learning cooking and baking techniques and wish to reproduce foods that I've had in restaurants or abroad and my motivation is not for the sake of the consumer, it is for the sake of me understanding how something works, knowing how to make it again, and making it for friends and family to enjoy as a part of an aesthetically-inclined food lifestyle.  Any sort of production for commercial gain is against my reasons and purposes for making the food.  It would change the purpose and production, and it is not something that is motivating to me at all.  

How this fits into studio production and making artwork is tricky; the art market and how we as artists fit into it is never a clean relationship.  As I work more and further my career I expect that I'll have more information and honest interpretations of this relationship.  I do not make my work for commercial purposes, as I suspect anyone reading this blog also does not, but I am interested in having a gallery that represents my work and me as an artist.  Printmaking pals always give me a bit of hell for wanting this, saying that it is a painter's dilemma, and I would tend to agree with them.  I do know, for sure, that I will need to have a healthy personal relationship with any gallery that I work with.  I also know that I am not reliant on selling art work to pay my bills, which also puts me in a good place--I could leave any negative relationships with galleries as I need to.  I won't go any further in this line of thinking, as it is all completely hypothetical at the moment--I have had incredible opportunities with galleries that are right-minded, independent, and progressive in the art world (meaning they exist with razor thin budgets and support from an art community and its creative capital), and all of these galleries (Heavy Brow Gallery in Bloomington, Illinois; FLUXX Gallery in Des Moines, Iowa; and others) have been incredibly supportive to me and other artists associated with them.  I imagine, though, as we all make more work, get older and wiser, and get more established in our respective art communities that we will all have tougher decisions to make in regards to how we fit into the art market. 

These thoughts will undoubtedly continue...stay tuned. 

I've got new work up on the website, including new drawings in the Letters of the Weather series, including the piece below: 

the last of things, 2012
acrylic, ink, ammonia, graphite on paper
20" x 30"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

songs for the white owl part 3

Third part of an undelivered and unfinished lecture.

III.  The Sleep, or, the Transformation

Hopefully the "meaning" of my work is starting to become a bit more clear.  Through an approach to ontology and how that interacts with making things (be they paintings, sculptures, or the basement stairs I just rebuilt) and living in the world and ecosystem, I have found archetypal cycles.  Obviously, these cycles have been thought about and written about for years.  Some of my extracurricular research interests have to do with Gamelan, a Southeast Asian orchestral music that is written in cycles based on the particular tone of each instrument; Borobudur is an example of Buddhist architecture that is meant for the visitor to experience the motion of the cycle which is also a parallel experience (through carved stone panels throughout the monument illustrating the Buddha's journey) to Siddhartha achieving enlightenment.  Mircae Eliade and others have written and explored the idea of the eternal return.  Eliade's writings often refer to a doubling of action and existence are repeated archetypes of myth.  The same is true for ancient architecture, art, and dance, though modern personhood denies the mythological meaning and doubling of history for its preference of fragmented time and experience. 

What becomes important for me to address now though is the idea of poetics and transcendence, specifically how my view of poetics changes and adds to the meaning present in my work (and, to some extent, things that are made and crafted by human hands).  My interpretation of the word poetics certainly has a basis in poetry, but I think it is worth it to define what I see as the important part of poetry and its function.  The beauty of poetry is that the writer can put together two or more words, each with their own distinct meaning(s), and create a new, transcendent meaning by putting them together.  In Auden's poem Funeral Blues he writes the words 'dismantle the sun' as a manifestation of grief and sorrow.  I think it is obvious that dismantling is typically though of as applying to something that is made of components, like a machine, a clock, or something else that can be disassembled.  The sun, in all of its physical and metaphorical glory, would not be our first object proposed for a dismantling.  Somehow Auden puts this phrase together (along with the rest of the poem, of course) to make a transcendent statement of the dramatic thought process of grieving and accepting death. 

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I strongly believe that this is an aim for art making:  putting together different and disparate ideas, objects, symbols, elements, etc to form new and transcendent meaning.  It is transcendent at its best points, and transcendent in the sense that, while it still maintains the ideas original meanings, it also creates something new, something that can contribute to the history of the idea as it stands. 

Poetics, therefore, are an absolutely essential part of my studio practice.  There is no direct route to poetics, however.  Poetics comes from making and creating things, it is not something that can be planned in my mind.  I think that it is necessary for artists to form studio practices that allow for mistakes, exploration, and impulsive decision-making.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

song for the white owl 2 // UNC Charlotte

Part two of the ungiven lecture during my recent visit to UNC Charlotte.

II.  Concept of Being

For the last few years I have been consciously working to find ways in which I could more directly live the life that I was thinking about living.  The rural aesthetic felt more like it could be brushed aside as a schtick, as something that was a motif in my work, and I wanted to expand in ways that made being in the studio more meaningful. 

I remember getting a book from the library in undergrad called Rauschenberg: Art and Life and being particularly taken by the title; I found the book at a time when I was struggling a bit in school, not sure how much I wanted to be a part of the art world and not sure how I fit into it--I grew up lower middle class, worked multiple jobs through undergraduate and graduate school, and wasn't attracted to the culture of the art market and the fat cat collectors that I saw when I went to art fairs in Chicago.  The Rauschenberg book, though, helped me to realize that this way of life was possible; that Rauschenberg was clearly (as one of the most prolific artists I've ever seen) able to just make things even though he had a lot of monetary success in his lifetime.  Artists like Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly, and Richard Tuttle also were good to hear about as they chose to live outside of NYC and make work away from those constraints.  Now, in our contemporary society, it is great to meet new artists who find themselves outside of metropolitan areas--starting great projects, creating small galleries, and building communities of creative individuals that provide far more than what money does.   

I have always wanted to be self-sufficient and leaned towards homesteading.  the Foxfire books were profoundly impactful to me as I started in college and I've always been interested in finding ways to make something as opposed to buying something.  In the last three years my wife and I have had a successful 500 SF garden in our backyard where we grow a number of vegetables, fruits, herbs and weeds.  As this part of my identity has developed, I have noticed my physical and mental body being more in tune with the progression and cycle of the year; I also started paying attention quite a bit more to what was happening in the night sky.  I started using constellations that where visible in the Northern Hemisphere while I was making the painting and/or drawing as the compositional basis.  I then developed the compositions with gestural marks, push and pull, and spatial geometric abstraction as an acknowledgement to the constellation that helped create this new image.  As I have always been partial to folk traditions and superstitions, the constellations helped me to make work that was connected to the experience of being on earth, living within a complex system of planet and space, and knowing my place and movement as the constellations changed and time moved forward to cycle back. 

I additionally started using the forms of plants, trees, and other forms of being (in that they have life, in some capacity) as the compositional basis for paintings as well.  This is a sort of overarching idea that I still consider and think about in my work, as most artists should--why is it that I am using the elements or symbols that I am using?  What do they mean, and what won't I use in my work?  This last question is particularly interesting to me because though it is worded in a negative way, it helps me establish boundaries and get a better sense of why I use the elements that I do choose to use.  The plants, trees, and leaves have continued to be a major part of my work; even in more recent wall-based installations.  In part these elements are not only interesting in terms of formal qualities--how a tomato vine can be a line, or a leaf can act like paper or an awkward brush mark.  It is also rewarding to me to use materials that I have--a lot of the organic elements in this work are dead plants that would just be composted if I didn't use them; I like using found wood or materials that are easily accessible not only because of my attempts at self-sufficiency but also because I think transcendence becomes all the more important with materials that I see and/or use every day, as a part of my existence. 

Drawing for the Backspace Collective fundraiser, which is still accepting drawings that will be sold to benefit the space in Peoria, Illinois.  Please consider donating a piece, drawings are due by Nov. 30, 2012.  All works will be sold for $25.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

song for the white owl // UNC Charlotte

...just back from a terrific trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, to make a print with Erik Waterkotte and some students in the UNC Charlotte Department of Art and Art History.  Along with an artists talk and a visit with a senior seminar course, I had a lot of time to interact with the great faculty and impressive group of students.  I think the show comes down soon, but there was a damn fine BFA exhibition (of which I bought a pretty amazing piece by fibers BFA student Laura Ewing titled Banner)--should you find yourself near Charlotte in the next day or two, please make sure to check it out.  I think it comes down on Monday.

The printing was fantastic and I learned quite a bit about lithography in the process.  It ended up having seven layers in total: four litho layers and three screen-printed layers; the whole piece was based off of some digital photography that I've been working with in a series called Songs for the White Owl, a sort of response to Ted Hughes poem Songs against the White Owl.  The final image is below.

I also worked on two presentations for an artist's talk; one completely written out and another that was off the cuff.  The written one didn't work for the presentation because it was difficult for me to connect it fluidly to the work in the presentation; I do, however, think that it provides a good conceptual framework for my approach to art making, so I'll post the talk, in three parts, here.  Fair warning: it is unedited, so there might be some gnarly wording.

Preamble and Part I
It might take a while for me to set up the framework for the most potent aspects of my work so please bear with me.  I will be showing work throughout my lecture but pieces and parts will build up to more of a design of the whole picture towards the end.  I find that this is the best approach to presenting my work because, in part, it preserves some structured ambiguity between what I am talking of and what is in the work, that gradually develops as the lecture goes on.  As Will Oldham just wrote in Poetry Magazine this June, in 'To Hell with Drawers: Poetry as cabinetry' :  

"The difference between lyrics and poetry is that I don't understand poetry.  I don't understand biology either.  Someone must be there to guide me through the meanings of things…I also do not like drawers.  There must be shelves, where the contents are visible.  When things are hidden in drawers, they do not exist…My mind is kept in a drawer, in the end.  And the drawer hides its contents from view…"

Its difficult to a certain extent to tell exactly how Oldham's facetiousness defends the structure of my talk, but I want to simultaneously guide you through the meanings of things and, also, defend that things hiding in drawers can be interesting.  For me to explain every mark is to bore you to tears; for me to say that everything is a matter of happenstance is to deny my own nature of finding and developing meaning in art making and life. 

I have grown up and lived all of my life in the Midwest.  I've always needed to connect to my family and ancestry as a means to forming part of my identity, so Midwestern-ness is a big part of that identity; my mother's family was largely farmers, Dutch-German immigrants in Pennsylvania and then Indiana.   My father's family is much more assorted in its ancestry--with some records reporting Cherokee from Eastern Tennessee along with the typical mixture of European immigrants.  My father's family, however, settled in the Moccasin Gap near Gate City, Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains.  Farming is also a part of the history of that side of the family, along with logging and a family rock quarry.  It took me some time as I was growing up to realize the meaning of this history; I often wanted something concrete to connect to in forming my identity.  As I've grown older, however, I have realized how this truly impacts my life and work. 

I. Understanding the morning, every new day

While I've always had a penchant for the rural and "down-home" aesthetic, I've tried to develop ways of not simply relying on the visual language of the rural to suffice for my content.  I do feel like I made a number of successful pieces during this development and struggle, due largely in part to my interest in geography, specifically human geography.  Not only did it connect the placeness that I was feeling as I was establishing my identity (being Midwestern, traveling to Appalachia every year) but human geography is less scientific in nature and more about seeing place, location, or space as a state of context, not simply an individual point to study. 

Yi Fu Tuan and Gaston Bachelard were the most influential thinkers as I started to develop my work and connect it to a way of living.  Bachelard is typically considered to be a phenomenologist, but his book The Poetics of Space and many of his other writings have appealed to my sense of place and been instructive in another aspect of life and work--the poetic aspects of being. 

A good example of Bachelard's poetics deals with something that I have thought about for some time, especially as it grows colder and I tend to do things like bake bread, read and write poetry, and reflect more on what is happening.  He states:

"Winter is by far the oldest of the seasons.  Not only does it confer age upon our memories, taking us back to a remote past but, on snowy days, the house too is old."

Why does this transition happen during fall?  Why does my lifestyle and identity change as it grows colder?  Though I don't know the exact answers, I've started to learn and understand a sort of archetype of being, in the most general sense evidence of a cycle that is prevalent in my concept a day, my idea of a year, and my impression and anticipation of a lifetime, including the seasonal changes of the year, the changes of light in both a day and a year, and other experiential aspects of living.  Ontology is, like geography, something that is contextual, and the philosophical writing and ideas of being should be considered with the experiential context of every day life. 

song for the white owl: sleep will wait, 2012
lithography and screen print, ed. of 16
printed with Erik Waterkotte at the UNC Charlotte print shopt

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Places, the state of being

I'm busy preparing for a lecture and visiting artist gig at University of North Carolina in Charlotte--I hope to post the lecture notes and powerpoint here after it is finished.

While at UNC Charlotte I will be working with Erik Waterkotte to make some large scale prints based off of digital photos that I've been working with, down below (though these are smaller sketches, without the handwork of the prints).  I am always interested in text and how to fit it into my work; at times it is a bit of a struggle, but I think it works best when I don't over think it and use the text as a) an expressive mark and b) a poetic element.

If you find yourself in Charlotte on Monday, November 12, at 2 pm, swing by for the lecture; or stop in and see what is going on in the print studio.  I'll post the end result when I get back, too.

The images below reference (or react to) the poem by Ted Hughes
'Songs against the white owl'.

Listening to:
Tindersticks, in general, but mostly [II] and Claire Denis Film Scores
Sleep's Dopesmoker
Born Heller's self titled album
Implodes' Black Earth

Monday, October 29, 2012

After the harvest

As I rewatch and consider horror films apropos to this time of year, I have been considering how these films are linked to Halloween and what the conditions of the archetype of the holiday are that relate not only our sense of the macabre but also our strained relationship with death or dying as well as our thoughts towards our ancestors--specifically, why this time of year and this change of seasons has such a strong relationship to these ideas of mortality, fear, and things we cannot control.

My own impression of the archetype of the seasonal change (from a Northern Hemisphere standpoint, from late summer to fall to winter) is that it is, in part, a transition to less daylight and more dark night time.  There is legitimately less sunshine, not only in terms of the feeling of the weather but also due to the arc of the sun and its path that is lower in the sky.

Additionally, the days are shorter.  Despite modern attempts for us to extend our work periods with light, there is a pull for less activity in the winter, the hunkering-down and waiting out the winter.  Samhain, Halloween, and Day of the Dead are all at the beginning of the downhill race towards not leaving the shelter of a warm home until the snow melts and spring starts to warm the days.

How does this connect to the macabre and to fear?  In part, longer nights might be responsible for this.  There is also the connection that this time of year has to giving thanks and reflecting on our ancestors; though at times it is hard to determine what of this is cultural (i.e. the holiday of Thanksgiving) and what, truly, is an archetype of the history of humankind--the type of history that is engrained in our bones from the very dawn of being.

I think that I am creating more questions than answering anything in particular, so I'll try to state my case plainly:  this time of year is a confluence of the past and preparation; and that transition certainly creates an unsteady period of change.  The unsteadiness might create a sort of moving reality that opens itself up to questioning.  This moving reality is harder for us to control and harder even to understand, though we know what is about to happen; in the end, it is our own uneasiness that allows our imagination to create more ghosts than actually exist.

I have been interested in the ineffable feelings, ominousness, and reflection of the fall for quite some time.  Obviously, if you've read this far, I have few answers to offer; and here in lies part of my interest in this time of year.  Here is a great image of a gaelic carving, in some ways thought to ward off evil spirits.  This Samhain "jack-o-lantern" is carved out of a turnip.

Also, check out Studiobreak for my interview with its creator, Dave Linneweh, and Bill Conger, concerning Kubrik's The Shining and other horror films that might come up.  I imagine it will be posted sometime this week to correspond to Halloween.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Postmemory and forgetting

I've recently picked up Joan Gibbons' 2009 book Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance and I am processing some of the concepts of the book.  In the chapter "Postmemory: The Ones Born Afterwards" Gibbons uses Marianne Hirsch's concept of postmemory to talk about some works by Christian Boltanski and Ansel Kiefer and their relationship to the Holocaust (to put it simply).  Kiefer (b. 1945) is of a generation in Germany known as Nachgeborenen, which translates as "the ones born afterwards."  The heart of the chapter is to work with the ideas of how memory of an event (especially a tragic event like the Holocaust) is remembered by generations that did not experience it, especially artists who are dealing with the remembering (or, rather postmemory) of the event of the Holocaust.  The chapter has been ringing in my head, especially with the broader implications of postmemory in art making, its relationship to nostalgia, and the imperfections of memory and how they translate into a concept like postmemory.

With the discussion of memory comes the discussion of the accuracy of memory.  I think it is a common assumption that the only accurate memory is one that is experienced by an individual (I'm going to leave this on the individual level and tackle how this applies to collective memory at a later date) and that a memory of an event that an individual was not alive for is not memory at all, but rather something more akin to history (as in an individual being told what has happened at a particular time).  An individual can, of course, have a memory of history but most would argue that the individual can never have a direct memory of an event in which they did not experience.

I think postmemory begins to address this in that, in a broad sense, people can have memories of something that they did not directly experience.  Undoubtedly these memories are imperfect (which is in line with most forms of memory!) and suspect to bias, but they are memories that come up just the same.  I think the most obvious example of this for me might be a photo album of my parents' lives before I or my brother was born.  The pictures are filled with people and places that I know and, in some capacity, fill in information of what happened before my own consciousness.  I know what my mother and father looked like, and, because of the photographs, I have a memory of what my mother and father looked like when they first started dating.

I have very little interest in nostalgia, and I think that the concept of postmemory might start to explain a nostalgia-esque feeling that I have had in my experience--looking to what has happened in the past and how it fits into my identity. In particular, I have been thinking about nostalgia, postmemory, and contemporary artists (and pop culture, for that matter) invested in Americana.  It is widespread throughout contemporary music, and is prevalent enough in contemporary art for their to be exhibitions surrounding it (Old, Weird America comes to mind).  I was accused a few times in graduate school of being nostalgic or even ironic when I used symbols of rural american culture; and what could be seen as 'americana' contemporary art is typically approached skeptically and is seen as romantic (almost as an opposite of contemporary art that engages with current social issues).  Can there not be a group of artists who also look towards the past--which they have no direct experience with or memory of--as source material for their work?

I am feeling myself veer back towards Walter Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History", so a re-read of that is probably in order.  To try to summarize a bit of what I am talking about here, I would like to claim that the past is such a monumental entity in our identity, and we as individuals are aware of the past exceeding our interaction with it, that we can not but help deal with it in our current selves.  Perhaps this means that postmemory is an intrinsic part of identity. More on this to come, for sure.

Other books that I am reading, currently:
Wieland, or, the Transformation by Charles Brockden Brown
The American Soul by Jacob Needleman
A Void by George Perec
"Testimonial Objects: Memory, Gender, and Transmission" by Marianne Hirsh (mentioned above) and Leo Spitzer (a great essay from Poetics Today dealing, in part, with miniature books from the Holocaust).

And, of course, some new studio work:
too many gone without a song, 2012
spray paint and weed

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Twombly's Photographs

 I have not found much information about Cy Twombly's photographs; some of them, apparently, where taken in the 1950's, others were taken in the artists' later years.  The images are incredibly striking to me and even though they predate Luc Tuyman's paintings significantly, I can't help but relate them to a "reality" version of Tuyman's disinterested, removed, and disenchanted paintings.  Interestingly enough, though, the captured reality of Twombly's photographs read almost oppositely of Tuyman's paintings:  I think of Twombly's photographs as intimate as images and revealing an intimate relationship between the artist and his subject matter.

I'm not sure that it is exactly the same plant/tree, and I've seen a variety of plants with this same flower shape, but the first photograph reminds me of a tree that was prevalent in Peru called the Angel's Trumpet Tree, or brugmansia arborea (our own photo of a tree is at the end of the post).  The interesting thing about the Angel's Trumpet is that it is connected to cultural history that one should plant an Angel's Trumpet immediately if that person wants to kill someone else; if those feelings of anger still exist when the Angel's Trumpet still exist when the tree blooms.  Apparently, the plant take so long to flower that it provides enough time for the anger to subside and the hostile thoughts to pass.
The picture below was taken from a train in Peru, between Cuzco and Machu Picchu this summer.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

painting and the concept of mantra

painting and the concept of mantra

I only have a basic understanding of what a mantra is, and what its purpose is; but at least one aspect of it is a phrase, verse, or set of words that are repeated to aid the practitioner seeking transcendence during quite times of focus, meditation, or prayer.  I have recently started considering how this might play out as a concept for contemporary painting (as well as contemporary art in its broadest sense), especially in terms of what we consider to be a series of work.

The concept of a series to me is slightly disturbing, as it leads someone to think that the type, amount, and kind of work created for a series is arbitrary or, even worse, market driven.  I am also someone who makes a large amount of work in many different "series" and often have to justify to myself how one body of work fits or relates to the conceptual framework of another body of work, so any sign of something arbitrary makes me skeptical of my own creative directions.  I have started to think of the concept of mantra to replace the idea of a series or grouping, and I think that it works fairly well to link works together with purpose, justify the natural start and end to a body of work, and create a greater framework of a type of mindfulness in my studio practice that is from a new perspective and prevents me from needing to justify any new direction of work and how it relates to other work that I have made in previous years.

Firstly, my idea of a mantra is a phrase that is repeated in meditation.  In a body of painting, the main idea, concept, or visual source material might be seen as a mantra; recently, in my own work, I have been fascinated with the image of a 16 light window, both as a sign and as a an object with history.  The 16 light window--specifically, just shapes of paint that stand in for the glass that would be in the window--has been in a number of paintings now.  It is not simply this repeated shape that forms the mantra, however--as a symbol, the 16 light window (or any window for that matter) forms a sort of gateway and a translucent barrier between the dichotomy of inside and outside.  Not only does this have psychological implications, but it also affects our state of being; figuring out which situation we are of, and how we relate to its counterpart.  There are implications to a window that is painted in light colors (outside, looking in to a lit house; or inside, looking out to something during the day) and in dark (an empty house, night time).  The 16 light window was also prominently used in Victorian architecture--not for any particular reason that I can see, but it has the strong cultural context to me and the things that I connect to Victorian culture.  Of particular interest in this body of work is the idea of mesmerism that was being discussed and affecting the ways that people who lived during that time acted and behaved.  It is a sort of link to a quasi-natural existence that resulted from shoddy science but was really, at least from what I can discern, more a form of superstition.

[As a side note,  I have recently started reading into the idea of Postmemory, developed by Marianne Hirsch, and I think it provides an interesting lens to look at all of this through.  I think it has great implications in contemporary art and how artists deal with memory.  As I read more, I plan on dedicated at least one blog post to this concept.]

Secondly, the mantra justifies a beginning and an end--I believe I referred to it as a "natural" beginning and end earlier.  I do not know why I need this as a crutch, but when I can relate the idea of a new series starting to a type of chant or phrase that I can only partially understand its purpose, it seems to make the whole body of work function more purposefully.  Through the development of the works I discover more fully the meaning and implications of the mantra that I am working on.  Most series have a purpose.  A series of baseball cards is dictated by a season of baseball, and that season is dictated in part by the weather.  A series of television shows is in part determined by the arc of a narrative (though, we can often come up with a number of television shows that are truly running past their narrative arc and are continuing to be made).   For some reason a series in art making has not connected to anything for me--but this idea of a mantra is a good association that helps me to understand the archetype of a group of works that have started and that will end.  The natural ending I speak of, of course, is when the idea is no longer working with the formal qualities of a work, or I have exhausted the aspect of an idea and need to move on to another image/idea/concept.  Undoubtedly there are some artists who have repeated the same mantra their entire life (Gene Davis comes to mind), but I know that my mantras will have a beginning and an end, and new mantras will come along.  It is related to a much bigger archetype of the cycle in this way, to me, as well--which will undoubtedly come up again in the future.

[Postmemory plays into this idea, too; from what I understand so far is that Postmemory is a memory that is experienced through a generation that did not live through the original act; yet the younger generation still deals with the original act to work through the implications of it.  I think the idea of working through a memory is what has my brain reeling right now, in relation to all of this.]