Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Segment Collaboration with Sunshine Vekas – Part 3 – Process: Embroidery and Exchange

In Progress, detail of SC #5d (in the mess of my studio area) © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

Are you enjoying the step by step process of this? Because I am enjoying writing about it!

Just found out about this collaboration? Here are links to catch you up.
Part 1: Establish your System
Part 2: Process: Nomenclature and Waxing

Segment Collaboration with Sunshine Vekas – Part 3 – Process: Embroidery and Exchange

The image above is where we are starting today's post. We left off at me letting the encaustic wax to cool for the day.

Later that night and the next day, I used my new skill that I learned in my Fiber Surface Design class to enhance the piece - embroidery.

Embroidery on sculpture you say? I know. It is different. But if you have not seen all the super cool things being done with contemporary embroidery, check out the art show "Pricked: Extreme Embroidery". It is not your grandmother's sampler.

Also on the subject of embroidery as/on fine art, there is a great book called By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art that I suggest. It notes that with our very technical, computer-driven life, people are turning to hand work to connect with something personal. I concur.

Back to the process: I hand embroidery with white floss intuitively on the segment tufts. I don't follow patterns or do particularly fancy stitching. I just make it up as I go along. Surprised? I didn't think so.

However, my new found knowledge of embroidery stitches influence what I do with the floss. For example, this piece of embroidery is based on the traditional Cretan Stitch. Here is a video on how to do it.

The waxed fabric was surprising easy to hand embroider, although like leather, it leaves a permanent hole. Taking this to my advantage and poked holes through some of the tufts without embroidering through it.

Embroidery In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

Embroidery In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

Embroidery In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

I worked with the segments that had disconnected and rearranged them again.

Embroidery In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

Finally, I took a photograph of the work and put it away to be exchanged the next day.

SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

On Friday, I brought SC #5d in a humble plastic Vons grocery bag and waited for Sunshine to show up to our classroom. She never showed.

I finally asked our instructor if he had heard from her and found out that she had hurt her ankle and wasn't coming to class. It would be another week until I could exchange it. Rather than work on it anymore, I worked on my Fibrous Waximus project.

When we exchanged the pieces next week, I was delighted that she loved it. There was no "you ruined it!" moment that I had anticipated.

She especially liked the rose madder "mistake" that if I had an "undo" button on my encautic, I wouldn't have done. How's that for trusting the process?

Sunshine said that pieces had a different feel separated from the rubber holders. So my mistake began a start of a new direction for her piece.

Here is a sneak preview of SC #5e-1, which is Sunshine's modification on the piece.

SC #5c-1 in progress © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly


This process has been so exciting to share with you! From my self-doubt, working intuitively, to trusting the process, to watching the piece unfold in a whole new direction -- it is all about process. In that process, and sharing it with you, we all learn.

Want Sunshine's side of the story and her process? ME TOO!

Sunshine's documents her process via pictures and text. We are figuring out a way to have her process to fit the formatting of this blog, and when I do, you will get to see more of this project.

Thanks for sharing in this journey with us! ~ Jaime Lyerly

Segment Collaboration with Sunshine Vekas – Part 2 – Process: Waxing

SC #5c © 2009-2010 Sunshine Vekas

Did I hook you yesterday with this picture or my list? I do hope so!

If not, that is okay. Here is more to whet your appetite for process art.

As I said in Segment Collaboration - Part 1 – Establish your system, my cohort Sunshine Vekas and I are doing a unique art experiment where we work separately on each other’s art pieces therefore making it a collaborative art piece without actually working together in person.

We are both process-oriented artists, so this leads to exploration with materials that we normally wouldn’t chose for ourselves.

In this post, you get to peek into inside my head and my studio to see how I changed Sunshine’s piece above “SC #5c” into Fiber, Rubber and Encaustic sculpture “SC #5d.” This post is part one of the process.

Before we jump into the process, I need to make a note about the naming system of this collaboration.

Sunshine has developed a system to track the progress of these process pieces. She assigns each piece Segment Collaboration with a number and a letter.

This piece as started in her possession as SC #5a. Each major modification has been assigned with the next letter.

When I received the piece, it was entitled SC #5c. My modification will change it to SC #5d.

I love scientific nomenclature.

The nerd in me cannot resist the twist of taking this fiber and rubber piece, and assigning it a technical, scientific name. It expands it from the realm of art into art as exploration. Onto the process...

Segment Collaboration with Sunshine Vekas – Part 2 – Process: Waxing

After much fighting with my inner critic and self-doubt about myself as an artist, I finally got started on my half of the collaborative project, SC #5d.

The piece has a history before I got to it that (if I can convince her that you readers are interested in it) Sunshine has documented via personal logs and photo documentation.

SC #5c © 2009-2010 Sunshine Vekas

SC #5c © 2009-2010 Sunshine Vekas

SC #5c © 2009-2010 Sunshine Vekas

For now, this post will consider the pictures above and the beginning of this project.

As with many of the fiber creations I make on my own, the first thought for this piece was that it "needed some wax." On a Wednesday afternoon, I heated up my griddle and set up my video camera and camera to document the process.

My encaustic griddle was melting two loaf-sized containers of mixed natural yellow and white beeswax, R&F's transparent Rose Madder, Indian Yellow and Sap Green encaustic paints, all undiluted with medium, so that they are in their richest, creamiest, most potent state.

Encaustic Palette © 2010 Jaime Lyerly

This photo is not exactly the same palette I used, but it is similar enough to give you an idea of my set-up.

I dipped the first little tuft of fabric. I loved the way the beeswax clung to the transparent cloth, making it more and less transparent at the same time.

I dipped the second tuft into Rose Madder encaustic paint. It was so thick it looked shocking on the transparent cloth. "Oh no, I ruined it!," I gasped.

But I let it stay and trusted in the process to develop.

In Progress, the first two tufts of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

After dipping each piece in beeswax, I was enjoying the process. However that blood red piece needed to be connected to the rest of the segment. I lightly brushed the Rose Madder encaustic paint, catching only the tips of some of the pieces.

In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

I used my heat gun to soften the edges of the red color, fuse the wax, and shape the tufts. The heat helped to melt the wax which had covered the rubber at the base which looked sloppy compared to the tufts.

In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

Excessive manipulation of the piece with my hands and the heat led to a few tufts at the end of the segment to loosen from their glued rubber holders. What to do now?

In Progress, detail of SC #5d (in the mess of my studio area) © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

The removed the loose tufts from their rubber gaskets, and rearranged them on the segment. I connected the ends together which formed a traditional feminist icon of the V shape.

In Progress, detail of SC #5d © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

At this point, I took some photographs and let the piece cool for the day.

In Progress, detail of SC #5d (in the mess of my studio area) © 2010 Sunshine Vekas and Jaime Lyerly

Waxed! Want to see what happens to it next? Come back for Part 3 next time!

Your turn:
Am I being a tease by only showing part of the process? Maybe, but the posts are detailed which should make up for it. The process of documenting while it is being made and blogging with critical thought is exciting for me. But I have to ask you...what do you think of the process so far? I would love to hear your comments!

Happy Collaborating! ~ Jaime Lyerly

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Art Experiment - Segment Collaboration with Sunshine Vekas - Part 1 - Establish Your System

For the past month, I have been doing an "Art Experiment." A collaborative art project which has made me question how I work, and work with others.

In my blog post, The Psychology of Collaboration, I rant about my prior collaboration, and a list of my thoughts while even starting this collaborative art project with artist, Sunshine Vekas, who attends my sculpture class as an aide.

The project turned up the volume on my inner critic to almost a deafening tone.
I have found a way to turn the volume down - writing.

Now that we are a month into the process, I am ready to share our collaboration so that you can get a glimpse into the process.

This will be a multi-part blogging adventure, so I hope to hook you in so that you can experience it with me. Here we go...

Segment Collaboration - Part 1 - Establish Your System

Every artist has a different way of working.

Sketching; working intuitively; following a pattern; research; find objects; read books; listen to your dreams; make a schedule; document with photographs; critique your work... and on

Each of these (and more) establish a way of making the art you do.

So, if you decide to collaborate with another artist, how do you do it?

You have to establish your own system.

Here is the current system that has been defined (and modified along the way) to make this artistic collaboration work.

These are my rules, and ways of working, so Sunshine will have a whole different way of seeing this process. But the skeleton of the system is the same.

Segment Collaboration
  1. Take a piece of art or material that we believe has potential to become something more.
  2. Gather any photographs or documents on the original piece, if available.
  3. Exchange pieces with partner. You have two weeks to work on it.
  4. Release control of the process of your piece.
  5. Photograph your partner's piece and think about it.
  6. Acknowledge insecurities, doubts and inner critic's rants as you think about the piece. - IMPORTANT step for ME!
  7. Gather supplies and get to work.
  8. Document process via photographs or video.
  9. Again acknowledge inner critic and write about it to get it out.
  10. Establish a naming system to label pieces as they are expanded upon.
  11. Photograph piece before exchange.
  12. Email pictures to partner (optional).
  13. In two weeks, exchange pieces with partner and discuss process.
  14. Chose to work on your piece again, or start another piece for exchange.
  15. Repeat! Ta da! Collaborative art piece!
That is the system we developed as this art experiment continues.

As a teaser and thank you for reading this far, here is a photograph of Sunshine Vekas' SC #5c before I started my modifications.

Segment Collaboration SC #5c © 2009-2010 Sunshine Vekas

Want to see more? Come back next time for Part 2!

Your Turn:
Do you develop systems to make your work? Are you rigid (not that it's a bad thing!) and have sketch, plan, follow plan, finish or do you work more organically? Have you done a similar collaboration? I would love to hear more about your artistic process!

Art making is a journey, share yours with me! ~ Jaime Lyerly

Monday, March 29, 2010

Biting off more than I can chew

After two weeks with a bad cough and cold, I am back to work. So much has happened in the last two weeks that I cannot cram it all into one post.

Basically, I am in confession mode again.

I am frequently "biting off more than I can chew."

I hear an opportunity and say "YES!" before I figure out how it would fit into the balance of my life. And I am trying my best to get back to center with my time commitments. Here is my most recent example.

In January, I accepted the position as President of the San Diego Women's Caucus for Art. I have been a member for a couple of years, and started taking a more active role on the board this year as the Social Networking / Blogger.

Being the go-to person for all things Social Networking, this seemed like an easy task for me and add just a little more to my plate. I run the San Diego Women's Caucus for Art blog and our Facebook group.

However, when I was approached to run for President, I thought this was perfect timing. I have two more semesters until I get my BA in art, and I am not taking any classes that would interfere with my art. I did think about this decision for a while and talked it over with my partner.

I have such big goals for the SDWCA, and was eager to get started. In January, after the first board meeting I was so excited. Little did I know how much time this would take.

By the second board meeting, I had only completed a few tasks on my list and would have to sacrifice studio and/or family time to get anything else done.

I started getting resentful of the time that this was taking away from me. This was my own choosing, so I had no one to blame but myself.

By the third scheduled board meeting, I realized that I had to make a choice. Even though it tough to admit, I didn't have the time to add such a big commitment to my schedule. And the stress that not being able to fit it all in made it even worse.

So I resigned from the presidency. Luckily, VP Ellie Benfatti was ready and willing to step up into the position. Therefore, Ellie Benfatti is now the current President of the San Diego Women's Caucus for Art. Yay Ellie!

Ellie will do an amazing job with the SDWCA and I am so happy that she is taking the post. Stay tuned for more news about the improvements we have in store.

As for me, I have learned a hard lesson about a balanced life.

Your Turn:
Want to share your stories of "biting off more than you can chew?" Please feel free to comment. I would love to know that I am not alone.

Thanks for supporting me on this artistic journey! ~ Jaime Lyerly

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Call for Art Donations - CSNO Art Relief Silent Auction, THIS Saturday, March 13, 2010, 6-9:30 pm in Balboa Park, San Diego

Normally, I wouldn't post an event so soon after one of my own blog posts, but this seems like a worthy cause with a timely request, so I had to promote it.

See the message below:

Invitation to our CSNO ART SILENT AUCTION!


My name is Stephanie Carman Burgos, co-president for the SDSU on campus club College Students for New Orleans. This spring break Claudia Huizar (co- president) and I will be leading a group of 38 SDSU students to New Orleans for relief work in the St Bernard's Parish in the Greater New Orleans area. This will be our club's 9th trip. The purpose of this trip is not only for our Nawleanteers (New Orleans+ Volunteers) to rebuild houses, re-do landscaping and community centers, but also to spread the word about Louisiana's destroyed condition. The media has neglected to shine light upon this issue, even 5 years after the actual event; we want to enlighten Americans about this ongoing issue, here on US soil.

We would be ecstatic if you could talk for a few minutes about our cause at your general meetings, as well mention our CSNO ART RELIEF SILENT AUCTION. This will take place in El Centro Cultural de la Raza-Balboa Park THIS Saturday March 13 from 6-9:30. Our art relief will be a fun night filled with live entertainment, drinks and food. This silent auction is open to all of San Diego. We are hoping for a great turn out, as this is our main form of fundraising for our trip.

Important!!! : We are still accepting all mediums of art, so if you could briefly encourage people to donate their art, that would be greatly appreciated. All artists' art will be professionally displayed with their piece title as well as name. All funds raised will go directly go to our trip. Interested? Contact Danie Maxwell at

TICKET PRICES: pre sale- student $7, general $12. at the event- student $10 , general $15

Safe online donations are also accepted:

Thank you so much, if you have any further questions, please email me back or call me at 530.220.2935

Peace, Stephanie

Claudia Huizar & Stephanie Carman Burgos
Presidents, College Students for New Orleans
San Diego State University
Claudia:805.816.1401 Stephanie:530.220.2935

Check out our website:
Donate at:

- Jaime Lyerly

Art and Fear - part one - You are not alone

My last two posts have been so different from my normal, perky blogging style. I'm so sorry you had to suffer for it.

I just started reading "Art and Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland and it is amazing.

It is one Ah ha! moment after another. I am only 20 pages in to the book and I am ready to buy copies for all my artist friends so that they can experience this book.

The crankiness that I have been experiencing recently (and blogging about - see The Psychology of Collaboration and Casting a wide net) is all about self-doubt. The "Art and Fear" book tells me that I am not alone in this self-doubt, and that it probably never will go away. I just need to work with it.

Usually, I just avoid blogging (and contact with other people in general) when I am feeling confused or unsure of myself. However, I am beginning to realize that even these lows are part of my artistic journey, and that is what my blog is about. So I will question myself and hopefully, you will know that your are not alone on this either.

So from this low, I tell you my good news - Two of my newest encaustic pieces got into the juried San Diego State University Student Award Exhibition XII.

I am thrilled because these works are very new, and I think some of my best work. The irony is that is NOT my "student work." This is the work that I do outside of my assignments, although I do bring them into my sculpture class for critique sometimes.

One of the pieces is the 30x30x2" untitled encaustic painting from the Gatherings series which is in the blog post below. The other is called Collection (Fibrous Waximus) and is a wall installation fiber and encaustic sculpture. I need a good installation shot for the blog and I will get you one next week.

The show opens on March 15, 2010 at the San Diego State University Everett Gee Jackson Gallery and Flor y Canto Gallery, and is up until March 24, 2010 until 3 pm. I hope that if you are in the area, you can check it out.

Back to my art and fear - I am working through this.

Yesterday, I was working in some wax and nothing was feeling right, so I took out some boards and started drawing on them with charcoal. A few hours later, I had a triptych that is complete. Usually, I spend a long time thinking about my work, and making it, but it hardly ever feels done that quickly. These feel done and I am shocked! Am I learning to accept the inspiration? Maybe... no, scratch that - YES. That is just fear talking.

And until that inner critic decides to take a vacation, I will continue to crank when I am feeling uninspried and unconnected. But I am working through it. And you will too...

Art and Fear... what is stopping you?
~Jaime Lyerly

Monday, March 8, 2010

Casting a wide (and waxed) net. Another step in my artistic journey.

"Untitled (Gatherings Series)" Encaustic, Beeswax, oil stick and charcoal on 30"x30"x2" claybord. © 2010 Jaime Lyerly
One of the pieces that I entered today in the SDSU juried student art exhibition.
I find out tomorrow if it is chosen for the exhibition.

I think am finally earning my assumed title of emerging artist.

One of my goals for this year is to get my art work out of my house and into some local and national art shows.

I make and make and make stuff. Some could be called art. Some is not.
Sometimes I blog about it.
Sometimes I take pictures of it and post them.
Sometimes I bring them to my sculpture critiques.
.... But mostly, I make stuff because I am compelled to do it.

After all this creating, some of it is turns out to be something I want others to see.

Most of them are encaustic, and since that is my niche, that is what I want to show out.

A few weeks ago, I submitted work to: Luminous Layers: Exploring Contemporary Encaustic
which is an special encaustic only show curated by Embracing Encaustic author Linda Womack
and today at the San Diego State University Student Exhibition.

I have also applied for two scholarships: the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts "Encaustic Comprehensive workshop" and the Golden Key Visual Arts Scholarship. I have two more scholarships I am applying for, which are both due within the next two weeks.

Why am I listing this all here?

It is to remind myself (and my readers who may have forgotten) that it takes effort to get art work into the world and to find creative ways to fund our education.

Sure, I would love someone just to throw some money my way, or to come to my house and buy art from me there, but I am not going to hold my breath.

But I am making the effort now. Add this to my regular school, work, family and volunteer activities, my under-eye circles may be a little darker than usual.

Will I get into the shows?
Win the scholarships?
Will more people be interested in my work?
Will I get some solid sleep?

Maybe all of the above. Maybe none of the above.

But I am casting a wide net to try to capture opportunities before they pass.

And that is another step along my journey towards living an artful life. ~Jaime Lyerly

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Psychology of Collaboration


Working together with another artist(s) to produce something that is part of you both (all).

Sounds like a good thing, right?

Maybe; but I am not sure it is for me. Here is why:

Last year, I tried to be a part of a collaborative mail art group. I failed miserably at this collaboration.

The idea :
Start a small art work that can be shipped in a 8X5 padded envelope. You could have up to 5 pieces and then send them out to members your group. They would have one week to work on it and pass it along to another artist. You would eventually get it back when it has gone through about 4 people. You also work on whatever comes in the mail for you, and send it on to the next person. Simple enough, right?

Well, not for me. I started three pieces and sent them out. I never received anything in the mail until a month later when I was in the apex of the semester and getting ready to go in May on a two-week study tour to China and Japan.

But it isn't the fact that I received the pieces later that made me fail at this. It was that I never thought about the psychology of collaboration. Here is my definition:

The psychology of collaboration is all the questions and inner struggles that you face when you are working a piece of art was started and belongs to another artist.

I'll admit, I procrastinated a bit on getting my own pieces started. I wanted them to be perfect - but that will never happen.

Finally, I sent them off into the world to be worked on by other artists that I didn't know well. It was just when I received other artists' work that became a procrastination nightmare.

These thoughts went through my head when I received the mail art:

Wow, these are so cool.
I could do this, this, and this...
Maybe I can add this to the piece and take this out...
Wait, what if I do this, and she hates it...
Maybe I shouldn't be doing this...
I wish this was my piece...
What if I "ruin" it?
What if I make bad art...
These are professional artists - what the heck am I doing with them...
Maybe this is a bad idea...
How could I have thought that I could do this...
I have so little time now, I will work on this later when I have more time...
I cannot "deal" with this now...

Then the piece gets put aside until I can "deal with it," which is never.

Then the embarrassment and self-consciousness of holding onto the pieces too long (and not working on them at all because of fear) becomes so great that I start making myself less available. The pieces never get sent back either. I "lose" them in my other mail for months.

Collaboration falls apart and I have let everyone down - including myself.

At the time, I never thought that this would be the end result of my first attempt at collaboration. Everyone looked like they were having so much fun!

For someone who is obsessed with process, the idea of documenting a piece of art work at each stage of development is very exciting. I loved seeing what everyone else in the mail art groups (there were 2 others) was posting up on Facebook. It was amazing to see the transformations.

Yet, I hesitated and do what is very familiar to me now, "choosing by not choosing."

If you wait long enough, your choices of what can happen are limited. Wait too long on a scholarship/grant deadline, you will miss it. Forget to pay your bills, you get a late fee. Decide not to enter an art completion, you will never get in.

I know all these things, but I still do them.

And this time, my procrastination and self-doubt robbed me of an opportunity to participate in something special. I was not only hurting myself by procrastinating, but letting my group down.

So, through this mail art experience, I realized that I was not ready for collaboration.

Almost a year has gone by since that experience. And I am taking a small step into the realm of collaboration - this time with new rules and new eyes.

An artist friend from my advanced sculpture class, Sunshine, mentioned on the first day of the semester that she was looking to do an art collaboration with someone. She said that she wanted to exchange a piece with an artist, and we both work with the pieces for two weeks then exchange back again.

Sunshine is an amazing artist who has a BA in metalsmithing. She attends my advanced sculpture class for the critiques and to continue her mentee relationship with the instructor Richard Keely.

I am a great admirer of her work and her dedication to exploring her own process. So when she mentioned collaboration, my first instinct was "YES, I want to do this!"

But then my self-doubt compelled me to admit my hesitancy. I explained to her my previous failure at collaboration. She was understanding and still interested in working with me.

Here is what makes this collaboration different (and I hope more likely to succeed):

I know the artist that I am working with
I know her current work
She knows my current work
I see her every Friday, therefore cannot "avoid her" as easily
She is very friendly, and understanding
We are peers
She is interested in process
She has a similar aesthetic interest as myself

We started our collaboration three weeks ago. She brought me this amazing rubber and fiber piece to work on. Sunshine said that it was a piece that she had been working on for a while and still wasn't happy with it. She wanted to see if I could work on it, which would let her look at it again with fresh eyes. I loved the piece from the start, which is a good and bad thing. I also had ideas right away of what I wanted to do with it.

I hesitated to start, though. And I hesitated even more to bring her something of my own to have her work on. Nothing I had seemed "worthy" of her time.

Finally, I started heating up my beeswax to give the tufts a thin coat of wax. This would change it into something that I could understand - fiber and wax.

Here is what was going on in my head again, while working on Sunshine's piece:
This piece is so cool...
I wish it was mine...
I am going to give it a coat of wax and see how that looks.
But what if she hates it?
What if I ruin it?
Maybe I can take the rubber apart and shape it.
But then it would never go back to its' shape.
What if that is what she liked about the piece.
I wish this piece was mine so that I wouldn't have this pressure.
Okay, lets put it in the wax.
Hmm, that looks interesting. How about the red wax.
Oh no! I am not sure about that one. Why didn't I test it out first?
Is it ruined now?
I am confident that Sunshine is improving my piece, and what am I doing here...
Maybe this was a bad idea.
Maybe I am just not meant to collaborate.
How can I be so bold with my own experimentation and so timid with this piece?
I wish this piece was mine.
I will let it dry and then see how that looks.
Looks cool, now for some embroidery on it.
Oh, the needle puts a hole in the fabric that cannot be hidden!
Did I just ruin it?
Just finish this embroidery, Jaime, and stop thinking about this so much.

Even more questions than before! I knew I needed to work out some of these issues, so it was time for the journal. I wrote in my journal about ten pages about how I didn't expect this collaboration to be such a thought-provoking process. I thought it would be more about working with new materials and making it a part of me.

Instead it has been a process of not only making art, but also examining my own artistic self-doubt and worthiness as an artist. Powerful work, to say the least.

This collaboration is not done. Sunshine was not in class last Friday so that I could give her the piece. So my doubts are still crackling in the air.

But I am now aware of the psychology of collaboration. And will continue to explore these mental processes while working with the physical materials.

My hope is that this collaboration with Sunshine will help me redeem myself as someone who is able to collaborate.

I will continue to explore my own inner landscape of doubt, while pushing forward to create.

Your Turn:

Collaboration: Friend or Foe? Have you collaborated with other artists? Was your inner critic on high volume while working on the piece? Anyone else have more struggles with your own inner voice more than the material before you? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks for letting me share my process with you! ~ Jaime Lyerly

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Our World through Andy Goldsworthy's Lens" - an (gushing) essay by Jaime Lyerly

All works in the post are from artist Andy Goldsworthy
Images from Morning

In my attempt to put some "quality" content on my blog, I am going to share with you an essay that I just completed for my "Contemporary Issues for Studio Artists" class.

My essay is about the land art work of Andy Goldsworthy. I think he is an amazing artist and have to admit that I gushed a little (or a lot) in this essay. His work is jaw-droppingly beautiful and he is one of those artists that when I discovered him a few years ago, I couldn't imagine how I got along without knowing him before. So a little gushing may be in order.

To break up the monotony of the essay format, I am interspersing YouTube clips of Rivers and Tides, which is documentary about Andy Goldsworthy that I base my essay on, and photographs of his work that I captured from Morning The DVD is available on Netflix's Instant view, if you have that or seek it out through your local library.

I hope you are as moved by his work as I am. Enjoy! ~ Jaime Lyerly

Our world through Andy Goldsworthy’s lens
© 2010 Jaime Lyerly

Andy Goldsworthy’s (b. 1956) contemplative sculptures made of natural materials connect to the viewer on a visual and visceral level. Goldsworthy’s artwork is usually simplified into the term of “Land Art.” To use the term “Land Art” puts Goldsworthy in the same category as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, which is rightly deserved yet completely wrong at the same time. Smithson and Heizer did work in the land, but they used large machines to make monuments that engulf and almost intimidate the viewer. Their work is about the largeness and spaciousness of the structures. Goldsworthy’s work is more personal in scale and use of ephemeral materials and thus his appeal is unmistakable. In the documentary film Rivers and Tides, viewers get to share in Andy Goldsworthy’s work with nature and see how this quiet man makes sculptures in the land that draw our attention to the beauty that was always there but we have never seen it. That is the power of Goldsworthy’s art and Rivers and Tides gives us a rare glimpse into his magical world.

Andy Goldsworthy’s states that he began doing art in the land while being in art college, where everyone was forced to create in little cubicles. One day he went down to work on the beach and found that the beach had an “energy, breathlessness and uncertainty” which was missing when he was working inside. He states in an interview in Wall Street Journal that “when I went outside and realized art is also a way of feeling, of being nourished, of understanding, of looking and being aware of things” . It is this energy is what has brought him out into nature ever since. In the spirit of Goldsworthy statement “words can do their job, but what I am doing says a lot more,” his actions are what defines him as an artist. In the film Rivers and Tides, Goldsworthy is speaking of his work while he is piling flat stones into a round shape. He is building a cairn right where the where the tide is going to come in. According to Encarta Dictionary, a cairn is “a pile of stones set on a hill or mountain to mark a spot for walkers and climbers, or as a memorial to somebody who died there.” There is no explanation about why the cairn is built there.

Rivers and Tides - Cairn

Goldsworthy and his assistant gather flat shale-like stones and he is carefully placing them into a stone circle, stacked on each other. Goldsworthy puts on a large stone, and the sculpture wobbles. He tries to steady it with his hand, but it crumbled from beneath him. The frustration is apparent on his face. He starts building again. Later the piece falls again, and again. He says that each time it falls, there is an “immense disappointment,” but that each time he “understands the stone better” and it gets closer to completion . It takes him four attempts for the cairn to be built, all while the tide is rising higher and higher, threatening to flood the area before the work is complete. Goldsworthy takes photographs of the cairn as it is engulfed by the high tide and remains standing when the tide rushes out. When the cairn is taken by the sea, Goldsworthy states that it is not like destruction; “the sea makes more of the work than I can.”

The seed like shape of the cairn is an image that Goldsworthy likes, and states that its connection with the seed is “full and ripe, ” which seems in contrast to the stone from which it is made. However, the stones are from the land surrounding the area, and there is still life in the stone, which makes it have energy of its own. Goldsworthy has made cairns all over the world, as place-markers for where he has been. They are present in museums, sculpture parks and most importantly, in the village he has made his home for the last fifteen years – Penpoint, Scotland.

Icicle Star, joined with saliva, Andy Goldsworthy

Goldsworthy was born in England, but he has made his home and family in Penpont, Scotland, which is a picture of rural life. Growing up in England, he belonged to a farming family, and was raised tending to the land. According to an article in The Observer, Goldsworthy was working at 13 and that he “rather he liked the repetitive quality of farm tasks, which he likens to the grind of making sculpture 'A lot of my work is like picking potatoes,' he says. 'You have to get into the rhythm of it.' This sense of rhythm and a seemingly inherit design talent is obvious in every sculpture made by Goldsworthy. To know a place, according to Goldsworthy, you have to live in it long time - long enough to see births and deaths. By living in his village at Penpont for the last fifteen years, with all of his children born there, and him working in the woods surrounding it, there is a sense of connectedness between Goldsworthy and his home. In Rivers and Tides, there is a scene with Goldsworthy sitting at the breakfast table with his wife cooking, his children in a frenzy of activity and him slowly eating a bowl of cereal – thoughts obviously not in the room. However, when he steps outside with a bowl in his hand, gathering bright yellow daisies from all over the town, his connection to the natural world and this town is apparent.

Andy Goldsworthy with Arch

He is sought out to do commissions all over the world, and when he comes home from that, he has to connect to his land again. He has built cairns in his village, which he documents via photographs to show the changing of the seasons. This kind of documentation would be difficult to do with a sculpture that is not connected with his home. For Goldsworthy, time is the most important aspect of his work. He states in Rivers and Tides that he is “fascinated by those processes that are apparent in nature over time – the sun, the light, the time; growth... The real work is in the change” . It is his thoughtful work in nature and his careful documenting through photographs, video, sketches and journaling, which are expressed through his books, brings the viewer into his miraculous world where natural processes are explored.

Rivers and Tides - Nova Scotia

Andy Goldsworthy’s work with ephemeral materials found on site and in nature is what makes him unique. He is a landscape artist, a land artist and an ecological artist, but he is so much more than that. According to the Smithsonian, “by using the landscape as his material, he can illustrate aspects of the natural world – its color, mutability, energy – without resorting to mimicry” . It is not just taking branches and leaves from the natural world and sticking them into a museum. It is not decorating natural objects with art supplies, since he only uses what can be found in nature. It is not painting a two dimensional surface to replicate the natural world. It is a personal exploration of time’s natural processes documented for viewers to see and form their own connections. Goldsworthy’s does not believe that he is making the landscape better by adding his signature touch. He is making work in a place he calls home and sharing the processes with us through a multitude of books and the documentary, Rivers and Tides. Goldsworthy states, “I don’t think the landscape needs me at all. But I do need it. ” This humbleness is as appealing to our jaded times as the natural materials Goldsworthy uses to express himself.

Oak Leaves and Holes by Andy Goldsworthy

Wall Street Journal writer Jason Edward Kaufman sums up Andy Goldsworthy’s appeal:
Mr. Goldsworthy’s low-tech, down-to-earth individualism is a retrograde reaction to the tenor of the times. His gentale [sic] interventions into nature – many of them destined to fade away soon after the artist photographs them – provide an appealing antidote to the glitz pervading so much of the modern society, including the art world.

As many of us have never even been to a place like Penpont, Scotland, let alone are able to make artwork in the land there, Goldsworthy provides a glimpse into a world that natural time touches, but man does not. His work with the ephemeral connects the viewer to a world that is more than beauty, but is always in a sense of decay. Goldsworthy “knows that nothing can or should last forever. Once a piece has been illuminated by the perfect light or been borne away by the serendipitous wave, he gratefully bids it a fond farewell” . Luckily, for us, the pieces will live on in photographs to be marveled at for generations.

Andy Goldsworthy is a compelling artist for many reasons and deserves to be given a better category than just Land Art. His connection with nature is sound and it appeals to me on a visual and visceral level. My stomach clenches when I see his work in his books, especially Passage in all its vibrant color. Below most of the pictures in Passage there is writing taken from Goldsworthy’s journals or a poem about the moment. Goldsworthy has found a way to connect deeply with nature and relay that connection to the viewer in a powerful way. Rivers and Tides is a wonderful way to experience the world of Andy Goldsworthy, and see it as he builds each piece. As he reminded us that words do not matter as much as actions, the ability to see this artist at work is a more compelling way to experience Goldsworthy’s work than a simple interview. Rivers and Tides is a quiet film, with breathtaking imagery that I had to restrain myself from stopping the film several times in my desire to get outside and experience nature. Working with nature’s time has become Andy Goldsworthy’s life work, and has inspired myself and many other artists to seek out a way to explore our world in a new light. The object is dematerialized into a measure of nature’s time, and “the real work is in the change. ” To experience our world through the lens of Andy Goldsworthy is to moving experience that one should not miss.

Adams, Tim. “Natural Talent." The Observer, March 11 2007, Art and Design section.
Goldsworthy, Andy. Passage. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 2004.
Kaufman, Jason Edward. “Following Inspiration Across Hill and Dale,” Wall Street
Journal, July 18, 2000, Leisure & Arts section, Eastern edition.
Lubow, Arthur. “Andy Goldsworthy.” Smithsonian, Vol. 36, Issue 8. Nov 2005
Riedelsheime, Thomas, Director, DVD. Rivers and Tides, 2003.