While carving the other day, I found myself thinking about the relationship between Nature, art and perfection. There always exists in my work process the struggle to reconcile the ideal of perfection with what I can actually achieve. I believe that this is very common with artists, and can be a very crippling issue. If the piece that you are working on is not as beautiful as you wish; if your technique falters; if your ideas seem flawed; or if the finished piece does not measure up to the image that you envisioned at it's inception, then there can be real disappointment. At its worst, you can feel like a failure at any point along the creative process. As I pondered this, I was struck by the realization that Nature does not worry at all about such concerns. Quite simply, Nature doesn't explain. It simply exists, and is often imperfect. Despite those imperfections, or often because of them, beauty can be present. It is important as an artist to accept this. The struggle towards perfection can be an enemy to the success of an artpiece. If you labor too long on one area, and make it look as perfect as possible, another area will appear scanted. The balance vanishes. If you work to make the entire piece absolutely perfect, it can become arid, and can appear stiff and overworked. The trick is to try constantly to do your best work, but to stay loose and as accepting as possible of the work that appears. That work will not be perfect, but it may with luck be very good indeed. The flaws may be quite small, and if they do not damage the overall success of the piece, will not need explanation.
Last Saturday, I went with friends and family to visit BAMPFA, UC Berkeley's new Art Museum (http://bampfa.org/). They have a wonderful inaugural exhibit, entitled "The Architecture of Life." This is not a show featuring art objects that are necessarily well known, or even that are normally considered art at all. Instead, it is a very thoughtful theme-based study of the way that life - from the molecular level to the cosmic - is represented in visual imagery. Unifying this theme is the idea of architecture, or inherent structure, that is present in everything from buildings to baskets. This wide-ranging show included pieces from Native American Pomo baskets to fiber and shell navigational charts from the Marshall Islands to Ruth Asawa's hanging crocheted wire sculptures (http://www.ruthasawa.com/crochetwire.html). What I found of particular interest were the clay vessels made by George Ohr, the ceramicist. Ohr, according to Wikipedia, "was an American ceramic artist and the self-proclaimed "Mad Potter of Biloxi" in the state of Mississippi. In recognition of his innovative experimentation with modern clay forms from 1880–1910, some consider him a precursor to the American Abstract-Expressionism movement" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_E._Ohr). The only parallels that I have encountered that even resemble his work are Japanese, and occasionally Korean, ceramics. This is hardly what I would expect from a 19th Century craftsman living in the American South. Their level of delicacy, and the originality of form and execution, is stunning, and a personal inspiration. They, alone, are worth a visit to this thoroughly engaging inaugural exhibit. This is a show that should not be missed. It closes on May 29th.
George Ohr "Bisque Pitcher" BAMPFA, 2016
I am a San Francisco artist who enjoys making art and visiting art exhibits.