Thursday, February 25, 2010

Musings on narratives

I started to talk about narratives a bit. I didn't really get into the meat of the discussion, which I had with my husband Travis after I made the post, and thought about to a greater extent for the rest of the evening. Allow me to divulge.

I was touching on some things that I've been musing about for some time now. For me, personally, its really hard to pin down my style as an artist. I know what I like, but knowing how to apply that to what I'm thinking and what I'm making is often a really difficult task for me. I think this has all been culminating over some time now. Looking at jewelry blogs every day, contemporary work in new books that I buy, DIY stuff that's happening in my community... I've been developing these thoughts about it. I'm not a huge fan of contemporary jewelry, never have been. That's a large blanket statement, really, cause there's tons of different styles that fit the category "contemporary", and some of them I do legitimately like. I mean, technically, what I'm making is contemporary, and I'm not really sure what categories jewelry being made now fit in to. And not to knock those artists, I think that what people make today is valid, important, and contextual in relation to the modern history of jewelry making. But there's a few trends I'm a little tired of seeing.
  1. Botanical themes. Jewelry that is natural objects cast in metal, or jewelry that is supposed to mimic nature. I think these are really pretty, of course (I'm guilty of it, I love tree branches and motifs). But I feel like I see these everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
  2. Ultra-modernist abstract shapes of gems and metal piled on top of each other in asymmetrical compositions. Sometimes these involve red string. Again, I think some of these are pretty awesome, but its trending pretty hard right now, and I'm not a huge fan of modern art in general let alone jewelry or body art that is mimicking it.
  3. Recycled, green, or alternative materials. Yes, this is a hot topic in our culture in general currently, and has been for a few years. I think the idea behind this type of artwork is really beautiful, and sometimes so are the pieces being made. But I feel like its been seriously overdone, and while I like to be surprised by materials, I feel to a certain extent like the materials don't directly relate to the work being made, and that those materials are just being used to be used.

Why all the hate on contemporary jewelry standards, you're asking? Well, its not really hate, its just not my aesthetic. There! I've come to terms with that. I think a lot of my thinking in the past few years is "how can I fit my work into this contemporary aesthetic so I can sell it to galleries who will consider it to be art?" when I should have been thinking "what is it that I'm trying to say, what is my aesthetic?" Developing a style is one of the things I struggled with in art school, and something I struggle with to this day. I don't have a definitive style. I latch on to other styles, and while my work has some style, its not completely my own. I think this is part of what's taking me so long to make this next body of work. I'm having a major design crisis. I like my old pendants, but I feel like they aren't saying entirely what I want to say.

SO, all this to say I had a bit of a revelation last night. All the things I've been thinking about kinda came to a head when I started looking at the Symbolists again, especially Beardsley. Let me try and lay this out.

These are the images and ideas I've been bouncing around:
  • Modern and Ancient ideas of Femininity
  • Mythology
  • Magic and Talismans
  • Ancient styles and Victorian styles
  • Duality
  • Narrative - illustrative elements based on archetypal or ancient stories and images
  • Stark design elements - silhouettes, black oxidized metal, antique colors and large shapes
And then I realized... I CAN DO ALL OF THESE AT ONCE. So what I'm going to try and do is combine all these ideas and aesthetics. I want to create a new series, that has a black linework style, with a narrative that concerns the archetypal images of women in myth, their relations with desire, memory, and temptation, and reverse these images (role-reversal, put women in a place that's unexpected). The example I gave last night was Eve tempting the devil with an apple. This, in a way, is a magical act, revealing the truth behind the modern illusion of the image of the woman.

These are still pretty preliminary thoughts. But I'm excited about it. More to come.

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