Since there seems to be a lot of conversation about originality lately, I thought we’d focus on that idea for a bit this week (which is a great excuse to just bring the most stunning work I can find to post for you!) Finding your own original voice versus copying or following trends has been a point of discussion since Synergy 3 with the widely shared talk, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly in the Age of the Internet given by Harriete Berman, to comments and links here, to other articles and posts making the rounds like this one regarding copying posted by Ronna Sarvas Weltman on her Facebook page over the weekend. Originality is a very hard thing to teach. But awareness of what it is may be the first step in finding your own original artistic voice.
Covering objects with cane slices is in no way an original idea. But if someone did it for the first time today and for weeks after other people started doing it, would they be copying this innovative artist? Not necessarily. It is not the process or the skill that makes a piece unoriginal but the ability for a person to make what they see or learn their own personal expression (see Sunday’s post for the more in depth philosophical discussion on this). There are techniques, concepts and approaches to making art with your material of choice. Learned well, they become a skill. This will not make one an artist. It is what you do with it, how you make it your own, let it express what you see and care about. So … how can covering with cane slices be wholly original?
This frog is a Jon Anderson piece (see the Spring 2012 issue of The Polymer Arts for a gallery of his work and bio based on the only interview he has ever given.) It is completely covered with cane slices. However, every slice has been placed with purpose and as a way to express what Jon wants to portray about this creature and the colors and patterns he has been inspired by throughout his life.
Jon chooses the patterns on his slices, the colors and the way he lays them out to emphasize the form of the frog as well to embody his sense of what is beautiful. He also embeds symbols such as the moth on the frog’s head that give you reason to pause and wonder what else this is about besides the frog. There are a few other artists that use the same patterned approach to covering forms with cane slices but I have never seen any of their pieces that could be mistaken for Jon Anderson’s. His approach is a reflection of himself, the individual, the original person that his life and experience has formed.
Who would you consider the most original artist that works in the forms, techniques and/or approaches that you do? (And it’s okay if you think it’s you. It may very well be!)