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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another aspect of decision-making is timeframe; I keep decisions close to me and don't get too far ahead.  I don't trust myself to know what I'll want in the future, and fear getting trapped in something that's lost its appeal.  I live more reactively, making decisions when they're in front of me, more or less.

In art as in life:  My work is a process of immediate decisions that responds to what's actually there without a fixed (or any) vision of what will come of it.  I may end up with rubble but it's the only way I end up with work that surprises me.  The work takes the lead; I listen and follow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

About seven years ago, I was asked how decisions were made in my family.  I was leaving my marriage.  Two clear memories crystallized the whole issue and I could say without hesitating that decisions seemed to me to be inconsistent, compulsive, unexplained, autocratic.  I'm not a believer that kids should have an adult voice in all decisions or are entitled to know more than is appropriate for their age and rank, but I do believe their internal processes should be taken into consideration and treated with respect when decisions affect them.

When I was in fourth grade, I was invited into "fifth-sixth," which was a two-years-in-one class that combined the best and brightest from the four elementary schools in the area.  The hitch was going to junior high a year early, which was daunting.  My parents told me the decision was mine, and I took it seriously.  Riding with my mother in the car one day, I brought it up and said I still hadn't made up my mind.  She said, "Oh, we already accepted for you."

As I was graduating high school (I was 16, thanks to fifth-sixth), my father suggested I go to Europe between graduation and college.  While it was a cool offer, it came with no specifics, like how one did that or with whom.  I didn't have a clue, and didn't even know what to ask.  After some weeks passed, he told me the offer was off the table because I hadn't done anything to show I wanted to go.

In between those two events, my family moved from NY to Miami Beach (in the middle of tenth grade ... ouch), with little notice and no explanation.  I just thought my father wanted more sailing time and had come to an opportune time to leave the business he partly owned.  Well, he did want to sail more, but he was also in a bit of a squeeze and leaving town was the smart move.  Of course my parents couldn't share that with a 14-year-old, but the move came so suddenly and at such a pivotal time for me that the silence about why or that it might be hard for me left me feeling invisible and insignificant.

In making my work, I prefer decisions that are reversible, whether I can undo something or redo it. I tend to avoid setting up irrevocable, no-turning-back actions.  I relate that to these early experiences and doubts about my decision-making that I carry with me.  Also, nothing gets lost that way, which may be more to the point.  To make a decision that's irrevocable and erases other possibilities or existences is too much responsibility, too prone to regret or grief, too like the process that cost my family so much in Florida.

When I teach contemporary art history, I need to peel students off the idea that all art is self-expression in the therapeutic sense.  Yet the artist's self makes the decisions, and their patterns relate to something.  I'm reminded of Heide Fasnacht's comments about subverting the self, when I met her at Vermont Studio Center.  Do I do that?  Enough?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This has been the most focused, productive weekend I've had in s-o-o-o-o long.  I'm alternately elated and weepy with relief and gratitude.  The thread drawings are fresh.  I don't know them.  The opacity of the vellum adds a sculptural element, makes the work physical, and adds much possibility.  The sewing and knotting slow me down.  There's tension between control and letting go, front and back, visible and less visible.  And as a bonus, I suspect and hope that these drawings could lead me forward to sculpture and installation.

I also got a beautiful run in today in Prospect Park, albeit with about a million people walking for the American Cancer Society.  The swan family I've been watching continues to travel together; the four signets are almost full size but still gray on the outside.  I see white beneath.  The turtles were also out sunning.  Last time I was there, four turtles were lined up on a log in the lake, each with one rear leg extended, like a turtle arabesque.  It must be a drying strategy to prevent mold, sort of like the swans throwing a flipper over their backs, which I wrote about a few posts back.

What a relief to go into the work week having had this weekend.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Through the drawings, some things are starting to make sense.  Until I moved to NYC in 2004, the work I was making was very slow and labor-intensive.  I had the luxury of time and could engage really, really deeply in repeating a set of processes for as long as it took.

Liz Sweibel, 1998, Threshold
Liz Sweibel, 1998, Without

I have much less time now, but still need that quality of experience.  I've found ways on and off these last years - the tiny sewn pieces and collages are examples.

Liz Sweibel, 2005
Fragile as Glass II
2 1/2" x 2 5/8" x 1/2"
Liz Sweibel, 2007
Interior 16
1 7/8 x 1 7/8"

And I've lost more than time - my Queens studio, my sense of visibility in the art community, my financial net.  (As if on cue, Joe Cocker just came on with A Little Help from My Friends, the anthem of my ex-husband's all-friends band, with Jack singing lead.  He'd have a big bottle of Absolut in his pocket - "talent juice" as he called it, but he didn't need it.  We'd all wait for that yell.  My ex, Chuck, would be on drums or guitar.  It was an unbelievable amount of talent in one garage, basement, or yard.  Band parties were some of my happiest times in those years.  I still miss them.  But I digress.)  Of course, I have also gained much.

So:  working at home is having me find ways to get that quality of engagement without much time or space AND without being able to leave much stuff out given the disrespect my two cats will inevitably show.  It seems I'm leading up to delivering what I thought was an epiphany but is not even news or new, but another reconfiguration of what I do, to meet new times.  Here are two drawings from a new series:

Liz Sweibel, 2010
4 x 4 3/8"
Liz Sweibel, 2010
4 5/8 x 4"

Even when it feels so different (as the above explanation to get to an old point proves), it's the same.  And it is different, but it is the same.  And the same is good, in the sense that it makes it my work.  But different.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not winning the Governors Island residency knocked me down hard for 24 hours and kept me down for twice that.  I forced myself to apply to another residency right away, like getting back on the horse.  I'd felt a brief but powerful tug to stop applying for anything, and eventually came to the resolution to spend less time on each application. Given the likelihood of winning, I invest a lot of time. My applications don't even improve, necessarily, from over-tweaking.

I am slowly starting to draw, building on the homework Ellen assigned and I completed (successfully).