Art making is a research process. Its a form of inquiry. Its an approach to exploring and knowing the world by way of methods that are distinctly different from those practiced in the realms of science and technology; methods that might be visual, performative, non-verbal, non-linear, or even intuitive. Yet these modes of research, synthesis, discovery, and expression sometimes yield results that are surprising, innovative, and powerful. Leaps of faith still matter.
Every artist, whether they can verbalize it or not, is pursuing some small set of ‘research questions’. I’ve decided to share some of mine with you (below), because I don’t think my questions are that unique – I have simply arrived at them through a very personal and idiosyncratic path. I suspect that these questions are general enough that they are shared by many.
Take 15 minutes to reflect and write on the seven questions below. For some it may be hard, I know – to slow down, to pause. But really. Please. Take this small leap of faith. With me. Just 15 minutes to think, reflect, and write. And really write it down. So you can see your words. So you can come back tomorrow and read them again. So you can edit, add, re-arrange. I really mean this. Ok … so … are you ready?
- What questions should I be asking myself?
- Where should I break the rules?
- What is my relationship to the unknown?
[What is my relationship to mystery? Where and how does it exist in my life? Do I seek it out or avoid it? What is the difference between tourism and exploration?]
- What is my relationship to fear?
[What am I afraid of? Why does ________ feel so dangerous?]
- What is my relationship to joy?
[What does it feel like? Where and how do I find it? When do I know I’ve found it? I can lose myself for hours in ________.]
- What do I put my faith in?
[What is faith, anyway?]
- What is my body telling me?
[What is my body telling others? What stories do bodies tell?]
These are the recurring themes and motifs in my own work. Everything I make touches on at least one of these ‘research’ questions. Most of my work attaches itself to some combination. These questions talk to each other.
And so here are a few example of images I’ve made in the past few months. I am hoping that this offering, this act of sharing, will make the questions more visible. I am hoping that you may gain some understanding of what I am thinking about when I am alone in my studio. You might begin to see the way the questions resonate and guide me. And maybe these pictures will give up some of their secrets to you, the way they do occassionally for me.
And now, you should get back to your own studio. Look at your own work. Think about how maybe you see your own pictures differently now. And it would be good if you started thinking about your own questions. You should make a list. And start writing.