Thursday, December 20, 2012

Statement–November 2012, On Being an Image-Maker Today, developed from essays dated 2006 & 2009

Michael Boles, Heart in a Spin, 2007. Pencil on vellum.
Available for purchase–please contact the artist.

I am an image-maker. I would not like to think that it is no longer possible for art to be based on just that. Conceptual trends have resulted in invisible art, and intellectualization often falls short of describing pure aesthetic. Just as I cannot describe how chocolate tastes, I cannot describe how my work makes me feel. My process of working is visceral and my art reflects clear aesthetic choices.

I recall being told in graduate school not to attempt to verbally justify my work. This was the "camp" of the late 60's and early 70's. At the time, I felt animosity toward my mentors (not instructors since they didn't instruct); however, I realize now that they were trapped within their own paradigm, and they were reluctant to teach because what was occurring in the art world was nearly overwhelming to them. While being forbidden to discuss my art in any depth made no sense to me then, and it doesn't to this day, it may have prevented me from forming specific intellectual bases for my work. In retrospect it may have been a blessing in disguise as I was freed to do pretty much whatever I pleased artistically. I wasn't given a specific direction and, perhaps in the process, I discovered what was real and beautiful to me, a path I might not have traveled if my graduate professors had chosen a "style" of art for me.

The imagery I use in my work can be both specific and open ended. I often use familiar cultural signs and symbols that change with their new context and allow iconography to develop for each viewer. This gives my designs a playful quality, as they change in each context. The context of the shapes also reflects my belief system and is manifested both randomly and deliberately. Generally, the imagery is most successful when it comes from a fluid and intuitive randomness. But the symbolism is not purely random–it is specific to me and who I am.

I embrace and return to shapes that are unique to me, ones that fall within my paradigm of art. I often think about the endless array of imagery that exists beyond my paradigm and throughout the history of art. I am both limited by imagery choices and structured by my images. I don't see my lack of knowledge about facets of art as an abyss into which I could fall; rather, I see it as a never-ending opportunity.

I embrace the legacy of images prior to the twentieth century that are well executed within the realm of pure abstraction. Their information lies in the break with tradition and the embracing of modern ideas regardless of the reason. Early religious imagery arose out of necessity for everyone involved. This imagery is the open door. The religion of art of the twentieth century suggests that you believe if you are drawn to the work.

Today, intellectualization has shoved art into a chasm with sides coated with all those things no one has ever wanted to consider as media for making art. I feel no necessity to go there. My imagery reflects the world that I love and hate, the world that I embrace and reject, with little or no deference to either. I am a product of my time. I am a piece of the here and now. I could be accused of stoking the twentieth-century flame of pure abstraction while working with a degree of "Old World" craftsmanship; however, I do not see these as shortcomings. The work I create makes me feel good. I make my sculptures because I am driven to do so by a force stronger than myself.

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