December 22, 2014 Repository 164: Modeling Your Creative Process After a Banana Slug in 2015 Posted In: art practice, bon mots, contemporary art, culture, philosophy, social critique

Roman Opalka, Detail  of "1-35327", 1965

Roman Opalka, Detail of “1-35327”, 1965

A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Albert Camus

Last year I suggested that our culture needs some more dirt in 2014 – dirt being the handmade, the intuitive, the messy bits of life. In a flattened, photoshopped, smooth, screen-based environment the soul of our being – the messy and complex part of it – needs a little coddling. I certainly took my advice and made some messes in the studio, took on new directions that had no consequence but to fill an intuitive urge, and actually played with mud.

This year while I will continue to pick up on my intuition versus my intellect, and continue to play and get dirty, I will also focus on slowing down. Slowing down is not as easy and obvious as it sounds. However the importance of shifting cadence can not be underestimated. The Slow Movement officially started in 1986 and many disciples have had TED talks and books about the idea, so now it’s time to address it head on.

What happens when you don’t respond quickly? React? Have a point? Something else happens – all the things you think are important are superseded by that which you haven’t been paying attention to. Basically you give the subconscious mind a chance to be heard/seen/felt. It’s in the absolute least obvious places that creativity happens. If you are reading this with the hope to ride that creative horse into the sunset, then one must get off that horse and sit on a hill for a very, very, very long time and then, and only then, something creative will bubble up.

Speaking of horses, last year was the year of the Horse in the Chinese Lunar Cycle. I’m a huge fan of astrology, tarot, the i Ching, and all those things that speak to a higher presence – all the things we pretend to know about but absolutely can’t. Being a Horse, let’s assume it was a fast and furious year (am I right??). The year of the Sheep is upon us, a soft furry slowing down indeed. While my astrological sign is an Ox, the Sheep and I are the best of enemies. However the slowing down and allowing oneself to dream is compelling to me right now. I will embrace slowness, even though my nickname (among others) is White Lightning. Full disclosure I married a Sheep and continue to love him dearly. Baa.

As it relates to the artist’s practice, we all need to slow down from time to time, and sometimes we absolutely must speed up or stop completely. I’ve taken residencies before where I’ve banged out hundreds of drawings and thingies in 2 weeks, then I’ve taken the same residencies where I’ve slept on my studio floor and created minor works only to have the physical work show itself months later, and will still eek out in years to come.

It’s scary to slow down. Hello, slow dancing? That is exactly the good scary we need to remember when creating work. It’s only in the slowness that these other feelings and deeper synergies take place. You can make tremendous work while doing the fox trot or moonwalk, but it’s effervescent work and doesn’t have the lingering quality of a slow dance.

Not many artists work in the slow mode. It’s not good for business if you are selling your work to make a living, and it’s hard to disengage from the faster-paced world and feel relevant. There are Slow Arts Days, and Slow Art movements just like there is Slow Food movement to react to the fast food of today. However the Slow Art movement is really focusing on sustainable and informed materials versus a really, slowed down way of working.

Slow Art Days at museums are great because they advocate for taking in artwork at a much slower pace. This year it is on April 11. I’ll recommend, or dare you, to look at a painting for 10 minutes at your next gallery/museum visit or in your home. Where does your mind go? The average amount of time visitors look at artwork is 8 seconds. BAM.

So in celebrating slowing down, I would like to remind the reader of some artists that have done some beautiful works about time, patience, or simply take a long time to make work:

Agnes Martin – Patiently and purposely hand-drawn grids mark the epitome of graphing another kind of space and time, that of the subconscious mind.

Giorgio Morandi – Repeated scrutiny of ordinary objects in his still life works makes them timeless.

Georges Seurat – A Sunday on La Grande Jatte(two years plus to complete).

Marina Abromovic – Importance of the slow motion walk.

Roman Opałka – Conceptual painter par excellence with an obsession with time and the self.

Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 — 1981 (Time Clock Piece)

A nice story on what happened to a woman when she slowed down in a museum here.

An organization dedicated to the slowing down of now thinking in order to understand the larger and longer repercussions of our now actions here.

Hurry up and slow down!!!!!!! And always thank you for reading.


opalka 2

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  1. Dan Leng • December 23, 2014

    Wonderful piece, as always. Thanks. I wanted to share a link to a blog I follow called 'Slow Muse' by Deborah Barlow (http://www.slowmuse.com). It was the first thing that came to mind when I read this post. Not sure if you're already a follower, but I think you'll enjoy it if not.

    Happy Holidays!
    Dan Reply

    • Catherine Haley Epstein • December 23, 2014

      Thank you Dan! Wonderful referral, will check it out for sure. You too, happy holidays and a wonderful new year! Reply

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