Sunday, May 30, 2010

Visual Vocabulary

I'd like to take a minute here and talk about visual vocabulary.  It's an idea that most artists are familiar with.  The visual tools by which they express their thoughts and concerns.  Sometimes visual vocabulary is pointed, specific and purposeful, or self-aware or pretentious.  Sometimes it feels arbitrary and random but may really be an unconscious expression of the artist. 
As I venture into this new chapter of making art for myself, I am finding myself contemplating my own visual vocabulary; what it means, where it comes from, how it's formed.  I'm also finding that I'm observing other artist's vocabulary. I'm going to post a few pictures of artists that I'm looking at so that you can see who I'm influenced by.

This is artist Yvette Kaiser Smith.  I met Yvette randomly at my place of work.  She and her husband came in to eat and we got to talking.  Turns out her studio is down the street and I had been intermittently admiring her work for years with peaks through the crack in her door as I walked past.  She's an awesome artist and a really cool person to boot.  She has some upcoming shows this year, including one opening Friday June 4th at the David Weinberg gallery here in Chicago.

I have always loved the artist Lee Bontecou's work.  Particularly her early 1960's pieces that won her international acclaim.   But I also love her slightly more recent work.  Using ceramic balls and thin wires, her work has the essence of otherworldly pirates benignly cruising through the the dreamlike ocean of outer space.

Here's an artist who revels in visual vocabulary.  He plays with it, makes tongue-in-cheek statements with it, laughs with it.  We, the viewer, in turn can laugh back, engage and almost converse with the art.  I am constantly amazed and inspired by Mark Newport's art.


Here is a great image and caption that I think many of us knitters and crocheters can relate to.

By studying other artist's vocabulary and taking note of what they are saying with their art, I'm hoping to understand my own vocabulary.  I feel, right now, like my art is a pack of wild dogs, running wildly, loosely grouped, foraging, barking, snapping, lolling in the shade, basking in the sun.  I'd like to harness that energy that is buzzing in my knitting needles and silk patches and embroidery threads and translate it into a readable visual language.  One that slices neatly like the trails of sled dogs through the snow, like the aforementioned artists that I admire so much. 

I invite you all to talk about your own experiences with visual vocabulary.  I'd love to hear what you have to say.