Parallel Practices

This morning’s art star super panel of Petah Coyne, Philip Taaffe, Vija Celmins, Robert Gober, Janine Antoni and moderated by Albright-Knox’s Douglas Dreishpoon unfolded into a lively discussion on what happens when each artist isn’t in focused used on art. The instance in which an artist isn’t actively producing artwork is typically a taboo subject; just broaching the topic is considered an invitation for that nasty, creative-sucking spirit to befall whoever allows such blasphemy to pass through their lips. Thankfully this morning’s panel generously shared what their experiences are when things just art clicking in the studio. There was a collective sigh of relief; we are not alone in our days slogging through work that is so bad it should never see the light of day.

Dreishpoon opened the discussion by sharing the big question he asked each panelist to respond to: what happens when creativity is a struggle? Each artist responded in varying ways, some addressing the attempts to get back on course, others how these instances happen in the first place.

Petah Coyne shared three words that are scribed above the threshold of her studio door studio door: playful, present and wander. Not only was a strong curiosity of the world instilled within Coyne as a young child, but also “a habit of being.” Throughout her presentation, it became clear that Coyne allows her three words to pervade her artwork, imbuing the pieces with playful references to people and wandering stories that influence each piece, allowing those memories to always be present.

Coyne’s process of overcoming a block was noted by Philip Taaffe as one that is much more proactive than his own. Preferring to step back when creative projects aren’t going as planned, Taaffe advocates for establishing a “a contemplative habit of mind.” whenever these moments of artistic drought plague us, we should make ourselves open to being in a place and allowing something, anything to happen.

Celmins took a more direct approach in addressing Dreishpoon’s question, by creating a list of what she does when not working. Gardening and developing a little plot of land outside of a small cottage is Celmin’s remedy. She attributes this retreat to gardening to lack of open space living in urban areas for most of her life.

Three instances of extended time away from the studio were shared by Gober. The first, after his exhibition that was part of the 2002 Venice Biennale (coincidently he took up gardening at this time too). The next brief departure was for a road trip across the United States, filled with stops at artists’ homes and landmarks along with visits to New Orleans in the months after Katrina and to Laramie, North Dakota. Finally he spoke about his current curatorial projects. Each of these three instances have there own divergent reasons for why artwork proves impossible to complete; the utter exhaustion after a major exhibition and tight deadline, the breaks needed to connect to the world at large, and new creative projects that become jobs that take over.

Finally, Janine Antoni spoke about a parallel practice she maintains alongside her artwork, the endeavor to cultivate what Jung calls the “active imagination,” allowing the unconscious to come to the surface and to come to terms with what rises to the top. Antoni does this through dancing through the Five Rhythms, which Antoni demonstrated for the audience. The dance is developed by artist and dancer Gabrielle Roth is centered on five movements, dancing through all five movements allows Antoni to move into a transcendent state, giving visions and kinesthetic experiences that fuel her artwork.

Such a lengthy post I know, but so much to chew on from this two hour panel. Some of the common themes brought up were the importance of connection with memory and using it as a springboard to jump forward; and returning to more grounded states, physically and metaphorically.

Images of the panel to come this evening, including one of Antoni dancing…

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One Response to Parallel Practices

  1. Maggie Gerrity says:

    I’m glad this is such a lengthy post because I really wanted to be at that session but opted for Henry Darger instead (hard decision, since that was offsite at AFAM so no possibility of session-flitting).

    Part of my rationale was that Darger wasn’t being recorded while most of the Hilton sessions are (including this one) and it seemed likely to be mostly words not pictures–but a dance of the Five Rhythms! who knew? would love to see that image.