Artist & Writer, San Francisco Bay Area

Self-Evaluation: Getting Some Perspective

When exactly did I start my Studio MFA? Depends how you look at it. Maybe I’ve been doing it ever since I plugged into my studio work and tried to extract more from what was happening there, or when I tried to direct my showing-art path into something that made sense, or maybe it’s been every time I’ve opened a book and asked questions about how it applied to my work. Or maybe… maybe it’s been happening every day I’ve done anything at all, because no matter what I do, I come back to being an artist. Every day I think nothing’s happening, I’m still an artist. Now I’m making a concerted two-year effort to resolve the questions that bother me the most. With this post, and perhaps with future ones, before I can get to the meat of what I’m learning, I have to place it in the context of this homemade Studio MFA experience; maybe that gives this information a cubby hole to hang out in, so that I can keep sorting this experience out. Here, I’m going to write what’s on my mind as I read for the class subject I created, “Artists and Art-Making in the Art Market.” My intention in this is to ground myself in why artists make work–why I make work– emphasis on the MAKE. Because I constantly question the purpose of what I’m doing, I’d like to figure out the answer, if possible, once and for all.

Ruiz-Kim, “Here”, 2013

I decided I’d be an artist when I was just a toddler; this is the report I have from my mother. While I don’t remember being two to three years old and saying that, I do remember being in elementary school and saying I’d be an artist, and telling people I’d known my intentions since I was two to three years old (there was always a range: not two, not three, but two to three). How did I know this? I liked to draw on walls and I couldn’t stop. (I began with the walls of my crib, but I will not go into detail on my material of choice at that point.) I worked independently on my drawing skills. I competed with a boy (Timmy?) to become THE artist of the second grade (I won). At some point in early elementary school, I took a class that had us kids making prints off of meat packing styrofoam. I etched with a blunt pencil, I rolled the ink, I pressed it upside down onto paper. Magical. Someone, for some reason, took our art and put it up on white walls in a building we’d never been to before. Then they took us kids to see it. On a bus, or in shuttled cars, I don’t remember. I do remember the winding road, the tall building at the top of the hill, the opening of the door into a tiled, white walled round lobby, and our art, my art, on those walls. A place of importance. A place where the images we’d made were the central focus. They were why we were there. I could see into the future: I’d be making art all my life. The primacy of visual language. Visual artists, we make things for the eye to communicate to the brain (to or own and to others’). I’m sure that’s not the only way to put it, but that’s what I’m using as a starting point as I figure out why I do this thing. Do I do it only because it’s fun? Do I do it to make pretty things? No and no. How about to communicate? No, not just that. It’s faster to use words. I’m compelled to take in the world and its visuals; I’m compelled to respond visually. I have things to say that I can’t put words to (curse you, artist’s statement!!) and the only way I can process things without language, to articulate the anger, the frustration, the suffering, the desire for more… it’s with materials that I manipulate with my hands, in ways that are directed by my eyes, that connect (I hope) with the wordless things inside my mind. There are lots of ways to say things, but sometimes there’s a best way, and that way involves images. Ones made of paint and substrate. Or ones created with a mark-making instrument and a simple surface. Or ones made digitally, or captured ones, and the subsequent print. Or images that are moving, projected or played electronically. Or dimensional (or even ephemeral!) materials that combine to form a physical experience. I keep complicating this with questions about where these visual observations will go when I’m done with them (leaving my studio by gifting or selling?) or what will happen to them over time (treasured or trashed?). Instead of focusing on the physicality of what comes from this visually communicative impulse, I need to remember Why I’m compelled to make it in the first place. So I’ll have to figure out where to put it. Fine. I can’t say yet that I’ve decided how it will transfer ownership, where it will finish out its days. But I do know I don’t want its value to come from its second act. I want to focus on the first act. It is something worth making, it is something worth existing. I’m an artist. I make art. Done.

Quotes I’ve chewed on from books I’m reading: from Leonard Shlain in Leonardo’s Brain: (I’ve read 7 of 18 chapters)

“The dragonfly flies with four wings, and when the anterior are raised, the posterior are dropped. However, each pair of wings must be capable individually of supporting the entire weight of the animal.” – Leonardo da Vinci. On da Vinci: “There is no doubt that the nerves of his eye and brain, like those of certain famous athletes, were really supernormal, and in consequence, he was able to draw and describe movements of a bird which were not seen again until the invention of the slow-motion cinema…” – Kenneth Clark “When viewed from an extreme angle off to the side, however, the anamorphic object springs out of what is a markedly distorted main image to appear realistically drawn.” – Leonard Shlain “In seeking the function of the human eye and dissecting it with unerring accuracy, in noting how atmospheric conditions affect the view of distant objects, or drawing a mechanical device with great accuracy and detail, Leonardo illuminated his search for truth using his art.” – Leonard Shlain “The artist uses images and metaphors to interpret the relationships of reality… .” – Leonard Shlain

from Austin Kleon in Show Your Work!: (I’m only in the middle of chapter 1)

“… creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.” – Austin Kleon

And that’s where I leave off, as I keep reading books and working on simple visual exercises via drawing on my iPad. Hopefully soon, making some monoprints since I brought supplies home from the studio today. Sigh. Seeing my studio after being gone one month wasn’t easy, especially not knowing exactly when I’ll be back. Sigh. xoxo ~marzkim


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