Forests, Trees, and the Like

Forests, Trees, and the Like

I suppose if there’s been a theme for my last couple of weeks, it’s one of simplification. That is to say, over the course of the last several weeks I’ve realized that sometimes I’m asking too much of a single work or thing and perhaps I need to simplify its purpose and–in turn–my life.

“Simple is Beautiful” by Douglas Wilson

It seems like such an obvious principle, but sometimes in the thick of your graduate career–as you loftily project what kind of artist you are and would like to be–the obvious isn’t always so apparent. In short, there’s a reason why expressions like “not seeing the forest for the trees” exist.

I began realizing this as I was re-tooling my artist statement for use on my website-in-progress. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I am in the process of expanding the range of my artistic practice and interests; so, naturally, I struggled to write a concise but comprehensive statement to encompass it all.

While this statement began forking in several directions, I was faced with yet another challenge: writing a final project proposal for my Body, Space, & Image course. Here, I began to imagine an installation/performance with so many formal and conceptual layers of information that it was rendered virtually illegible.

When it came time to discuss this proposal with my course instructors–Adam Brooks and Cecil McDonald–they were the first to shed light on what I’d failed to see up until that point: that I needed to simplify.

This advice came as a revelation to me, having also just been on the heels of making a work in my Conceptual Strategies course that didn’t quite “land” for me conceptually for reasons I didn’t quite comprehend. After considering what Adam and Cecil advised I do with my work in their class, it became clear to me that I needed to apply that recommendation not only there but also across my entire artistic practice.

A work in my Conceptual Strategies class shows well, but needs pushing.

A work in my Conceptual Strategies class shows well, but needs pushing.

Meanwhile, I’d also had my call for artists out for a couple of weeks and hadn’t seen much by way of submissions. I was absolutely confounded as to why my peers wouldn’t be enthusiastically submitting work for this opportunity. Here again, the “outside” perspective of Columbia’s great faculty, this time Fo Wilson and Matthew Shenoda, helped me to see this for what it was: a first-time call for something people were unfamiliar with that they may not be submitting to because of just that.

So, at their suggestion, I began contacting individual Columbia artists whose practice I already know and respect to request their work specifically instead of sitting and watching an email inbox longingly. Although this was a lesson of a slightly different nature–one of being active instead of passive–I arrived at it after yet again being helped to “see” by someone other than myself.

Now I can feel this and my other projects beginning to take form and show promise, and as I move forward I just continue repeating to myself my new mantra: “Forest. Trees. Forest. Trees…”