Forever What


I'm back in high gear working on my installation Forever Summer. It's two years in the making now (slowed down to finish up other projects) and will finally be completed in the fall (I hope!). For the project, I'm turning my entire living space into an installation of textiles, textures, crafts, and colors, all mixed with a heavy dose of meditative madness.

Several folks have been over recently to visit and the responses by all have been a puzzled "what are you going to do with this?" It's a similiar response to the ones that I've gotten to all of my large scale installations over the past several years: "How could you sell this (I actually was approached to sell one of these installations and recreate it in a private home and I declined because I had no interest in doing the same work over again)?" "How would a museum purchase this work since it's so delicate and complex and you'd always have to be there to reinstall it?" "How much did you spend on this ... and why would you put so much time and money into something that you're going to destroy?" Although if I were to tell someone that I had just spent the day shopping and purchasing a bunch of stuff, that would be viewed as perfectly normal and unquestionable. It's almost as though I should be looking at this work as more of a hobby, which is fine with me -- I could claim myself as a hobbyist, rather than an artist -- though does it really make a difference?

These reactions to my installation work remind of a similiar responses to my initial public work, the Better Homes and Gardens project through which I hand-painted 250 "Home" signs and gave them away as a response to the unrestricted development in the late '90's and early 2000's that left many people homeless, and the Flower Interruption through which I hand-painted over 800 paper flowers and then placed them in the middle of the street; each installation was destroyed/dismantled within several hours. Though at that time the questions were more along the lines of "who are you working with?" Meaning -- what institution are you working with? It was incomprehensible that I could possibly be working independently. Of course this attitude has changed to some degree over the past several years as "Relational Aesthetics" has become the buzz term of current art trends. "Oh, it's social sculpture; a relational aesthics project." Though a great degree of this rather new, or mainstream artworld understanding can be attributed to the packaging and appropriation of it by the institutions themselves -- it's very hip, easily digested, and almost expected now to be doing such work.

I experienced some of this expectation earlier this year when I did one of my large scale installations in a gallery setting. I received a very favorable review of the exhibition, which I was appreciative of; however the writer referenced my earlier "generous public installations" and questioned why I hadn't linked this work to my "previous work by including some interactive or socio-relational aspect that would galvanize its message and push it beyond decorative suspicion?" I found the observation, or inquiry so off the mark, since the installation was far removed from that realm of obvious intention. Yet it was clear to me that in fact, the work was steeped in "interactive or socio-relational" implications, relating to the concept of providing an environment and experience for the viewer that was about living in that moment and taking in a respite of beauty and playfulness.

The answer to the initial question about the current installation is that it will be a public "exhibition" or "open house" when finished and will be on view for six weeks, accompanied by dinners to share in discussions of home, environment, global forces that have reshaped how interior space is viewed, and contemporary trends in exhibiting and experiencing art. However, I don't feel this component is the end to the means or purpose of the work. The work has been the process itself, a personal/private experience of creating an environment -- and one that is temporary -- where the subsequent viewer, as previously noted, is invited to share the experience in that moment. This approach to my work has always been very satisfying and more at the core of who I am. I love the Buddhist implications in working in this form -- intuitively and ephemerally, embracing the detachment to the final "product" and the inevitability of impermenance.