Curated Life

As my exhibition, Fantasms, winds down, I’ve been feeling kind of separated from the work.  Like it’s of the past and I want something new.  I haven’t had the desire to squeeze paint out of the tubes and start painting again, but I have had the desire to make things and think.

The work I’ve done over the past two years is concerned with the burden of painting and how that compares with the burden of living.  But as I start to think about what I might like to do next in my life I can’t help but think about how much work it is to move, especially when you have so many paintings and art supplies in tow.  I don’t like when my work starts to accumulate and feel burdensome as actual physical objects that I carry around with me.

Lately I’ve been feeling jealous of writers and how immaterial their work is, how they can just get up and go with a pad and pen.  That said, I’ve had writers in my studio before and they always seem jealous of the fact that I get to play with physical materials…

My most recent paintings were looking towards finding ephemerality in painting, but ultimately, in the way I’ve been painting, they are still objects.  Although I still love what I can do with oil paint, I’ve been feeling this desire to use materials that can embrace that ephemerality more, in both a conceptual and practical way.  I’ve been trying to think of lighter materials I could implement, like paper and cardboard, and how I can still use paint in ways that don’t leave me so attached to an object.

I think I’ve also become a little frustrated with getting exposure, it’s been great to have multiple shows this season, but then the problem becomes, how do you get people to go see the shows? After making the work, finding places to show the work, installing the work, and giving talks, promoting the shows ended up taking the back burner.  I feel the need to take a different approach, that perhaps only showing work in a gallery is too exclusive all on it’s own.  So I’ve been questioning how I might find new ways to expose my work to a larger public.

In addition to all this I’ve had this looming feeling that the purpose of making art is to make life more interesting – and perhaps that the more interesting and stimulating life is the happier we are. If this is true it feels to me that art needs to be more integrated into life. Overall we seem to be in a moment in history where it’s said that anyone can be an artist, that anything can be art, and yet our culture doesn’t really seem to embrace that.  Perhaps we can’t entirely.

I’m reminded of a documentary I watched, not so long ago, on Ray Johnson called, How to Draw a Bunny.  In the film it felt to me that he was an artist who believed that every moment he lived, he was making art.  That life is, in a way, curated; that how we interact with people and our environments is making art. Ray Johnson prescribed to this idea so much that he decided to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge over water in the winter – I guess a somewhat peaceful way to choose to go.

I don’t particularly feel the need to curate my life so much that I choose the day I die, but I do like the overall idea; it feels freeing.  The question is, how do I do it? I recently went to a craft talk where Alice Notley read an essay she wrote titled, On the Poetry Talent.  In going over my notes from the talk I noticed the last thing I had written down paraphrasing Notley.  “The world is poetry – I am poetry – I am everything – there is no god.” – poetry could easily be replaced by art in this case. Perhaps the curation just comes through living.

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4 Responses to Curated Life

  1. mcalbee says:

    Beautiful post Austin! I just finished my book last night and am having similar sentiments to the ones that you so eloquently express here…whatever comes next for you will be amazing I am sure!

  2. The idea of the curated life is interesting. In one of my classes last semester (I don’t remember which one) we were talking about how the idea of curation seems to have come into the mainstream with sites like Pinterest and people collecting and curating their likes and interests…I suppose in a way Pinterest is like a modern day, digital Kunstkammer. Anyway, I think it’s not that far a stretch to go from curating your interests into curating your life. In a way anyone on Facebook or other social media site is already curating their life.

    — Meghan

    • Austin says:

      Yeah, I’ve thought about that too, and actually started a tumblr for that reason; curating work that I felt was related to my work. Although I do feel like curating life is a much more daunting task, it’s more sloppy than the digital world. Thanks!

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