All original images and text are copyright 2008-2018 Liz Sweibel


Friday, December 26, 2008

"But the Visual Is Not Reducible to the Verbal"

Having spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out how to categorize my work for my Web site, it's still unresolved. I do distinguish between my work on or with paper and "the rest," but what is "the rest"? I can't find the word or words (which reminded me of the quote that titles this post, from ”What ‘Evidence’ Says About Art,” Carter Ratcliff, Art in America, November 2006). Using a reverse chronology also runs into a wall. Some pieces I made years ago present best with more recent work.

My aesthetic and voice are consistent over time and across mediums and formats. So if these categories are more limiting than illuminating, then what? The work does use different "dialects" that could allow for coherent groupings, but again I struggle for words to describe them.

I'm returning to my original idea of a single heading - Work - and see if I can't then use the work to "label" the work.

As someone who's made a living from words for 30 years, this dilemma is actually exhilarating. It's always been my need to make work that exceeds (if not precedes) words, to get at something beyond (if not before) our brains' capacity to reduce it to the verbal.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Many Kinds of Nothing"

My work was in "Many Kinds of Nothing" this fall, a group show curated by Shana Dumont at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA. The other artists were Roni Horn, Dan Senn, and Nancy Murphy Spicer. It was a terrific experience, and a much-needed boost for my studio and morale. I gave a public talk and visited two sculpture classes, which left me sad that art school faculty jobs in NYC are out of reach. I love the teaching I do, but I really loved working with art students, felt I had something to say, and saw it was well received.

The curator was generous and insightful in giving my work the expanse of space it needs. The press was also generous and insightful (see Recent Press). What next?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sophomore Outings

My first body of artwork was purely autobiographical. I used my personal and family history to find a way to work. I needed the content to be familiar (if challenging) to experiment with new forms of expression. When my work separated from my autobiography it was a huge relief, though I only saw it in retrospect. My work began to be mysterious to me and seem more relevant in the world, even as my concerns are bottom line the same, just pointed differently. Making art helped grow me up and out of myself.

Now this blog feels like a first body of work. When I reread my entries, it's me-me-me boring-boring-boring. My hope is that this writing will separate from me like my artwork did. It's much harder with words, but it seems to me that's the challenge I've set up here, and to be public in this process, to myself and whoever else wants to listen (or chime) in.

It could be that the separation will be to delete the blog. I've been a writer for so long and never found a way to personal expression that didn't feel stupid. I still haven't, but I'm letting it be.

My Web site went live today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Invisible Pencil

In the fourth grade my friend Lauren and I started doing our homework in pencil so light our teacher couldn't read it. More than once, she contacted my parents so they'd have me bear down harder. It seems a pretty clear signal that I felt invisible.

Some 40 years later I make artwork that plays at the edge of visibility. I've matured a little bit, so my production doesn't come from the same sad place as invisible pencil, but from a very painful identification with invisible others: Drowning polar bears. Neglected children. Enslaved horses pulling carriages in Central Park.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why the Distinction?

Photos and artwork are separate efforts for me. Taking photos is like journaling or sketching - "notes" that share a frequency and aesthetic with my artwork. They're scenes from my day-to-day that I usually capture with my cell phone. The images are unedited. I'm after certain formal qualities and emotional resonances, and the impact is either in the image or isn't.

Keeping my words separate is also important. The Web site-blog-flickr divide, new as it is to me, feels like a valuable discipline. It's important for me to know the material I'm using, and not turn to another as a shortcut or way out. I'd like the words and the images to extend each other, not explain each other.

I'll add how strange it is to be communicating with no one/everyone to come closer to myself. Why is this blog more compelling than a private diary?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Begin Again

I'm working on how to incorporate the computer and Internet into my studio practice, no easy feat given the below-low-tech work I make.  Making a Web site only to present the work doesn't much interest me.  I want some of the work to find its form on the Internet, so that even if a drawing, sculpture, or installation persists physically, it's not the "original" of what's on the Web.  They'd be separate but related expressions:  the same but different, a theme in much of what I do. I want other work to exist only on the Web.

Since I'm not technical and not interested in becoming technical, it's taking time to figure out how to approach this.  It's taken time just to figure out how to articulate it (if I have).  But that too is thematic for me:  the figuring-out is the work, so I've already begun.