Spaces/Sacred/Otherwise

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Some of my favorite “things” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City were the period rooms: entire paneled, decorated rooms, brought over from Europe and reassembled in the museum. During the week, these rooms were less crowded than their counterparts in actual palaces in Europe. I get the feeling that tourists in New York don’t like these palatial rooms outside of their palatial context. For me, I am enamored with their theatrical illusionism, which even includes “daylight” streaming in the windows. Ironically, they are mostly-empty boxes. It is the veneer on the perimeter where all the action happens. Or so it seems. These were spaces within which people lived their lives. A space within that creates its own world.

I’m reading a collection of essays and excerpts by Mircea Eliade entitled Symbolism, the Sacred, & the Arts. I had heard of Eliade before, of course. Now I will add him to the long line of thinkers-who-I-ought-to-have-known-more-about-sooner. Oh, well. I’m reading about sacred spaces, and while I doubt that he would have appreciated my inferential link between faux chambres in a museum and real sacred spaces, I cannot help but think that there is a similarity, since they are spaces that draw attention to themselves, and of course when we are in them, we can think what we want. Eliade writes that in a sacred space, “man is able to communicate with the other world, the world of divine beings or ancestors.” Perhaps the world has more sacred spaces that we thought, if they are the kind of place that allows for communication between the here-and-now and the other-and-elsewhere.

Greenland/Vinland

I was uploading some video yesterday for a fellowship application, and thought it would be nice to post the video sequences on the ol’ blog. I used this segment as a projection in my installation Fram at the Carr Gallery in Idaho Falls, Idaho recently.

From my Vimeo description (is it pretentious to quote oneself?): “I superimposed aerial images of an icy landscape in Northern Canada, and the lush forests off of Highway 2 in Washington State. Thus “Greenland” in this video is really Northern Canada. Call it poetic license. The tree images were recorded at the Jennifer Dunn Trailhead, aka Beckler Peak Trailhead off of the Stevens Pass Highway. A row of aspens (or alder?) were between me and the mountainsides across the valley.”

Premonitions and Remembrance

[Lyussy Hyder and I hung an exhibition of my work yesterday at Sisters Restaurant in Everett, Washington, USA. The show runs through April 12, weekdays 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lyussy wanted a show title, which for some reason I hadn't yet come up with. I usually do title my solo shows, like the one in Idaho Falls: "Art as Adventure." It gives the viewer something to latch onto, and even if, like many artists, I don't want to influence in a domineering way the experience that the viewer has, it can help guide him or her on the right path. So, last night, I thought of title. I usually think of the word "premonition" as having a negative connotation, but in this case I was thinking of it as "projecting ideas into the future." I think of my own paintings and sculpture as honoring our cultural-, and my personal-history. But my work is not commemorative, since I want to avoid nostalgia. I want us to keep moving forward. Below is a combination "Bio" and Artist's Statement that I assembled last night, using recent material. You will recognize some of it, perhaps, from earlier posts. My goal was to write something for a general, intelligent reader, that would avoid unnecessary artspeak, and convey the balance I seek between craft and intellect in my art.]

Premonitions and Remembrance

I was born in Seattle and have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest. Initially trained as a painter, work as a boat-builder at Nexus Marine here in Everett awakened an interest in creating three-dimensional art, which I have been doing ever since. The natural beauty of western North America has always been an inspiration for my artwork, but over the past several years my work has also increasingly explored the way we transform ourselves through voyages, both physical and spiritual. An ongoing fascination with Norse mythology and Viking ships led to a Fulbright Creative Arts Grant allowing me to spend this last year in Norway where I created a sculptural installation at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, and studied ceramics.

“Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure.”
Alfred North Whitehead

There is something wonderful in knowing that we do not know everything. A sense of adventure is being open to new experiences. I created the works of art in this exhibition out of what I knew, but also as an exploration of—an adventure into—what I did not know. There is always the sense of stepping off into an abyss when starting on a new work of art. Yet, like the theme of voyages that runs through my work, there is also the possibility of discovering a new world (or creating it).
Art is an agreement to share meaning, and my creative process is an incubator for ideas that create meaning: a fruitful clash of craft and intellect, a balance between the joy of making something with my hands, and the intellectual process that informs my work. To make and understand art we need making and thinking, emotion and intellect.
I wish I had a theory of what art is. I have only a partial theory. However, I do know what it does. It sparks the imagination and engages us directly in a way that words often cannot. In a world that seems to be increasingly superficial and impersonal, art provides something tangible, and fulfills a need. It is a lynchpin of humanity. I see my own work as a fulcrum, a pivot, a meeting point, between you and me. It is a hub of experiences, mine in making the work of art, and yours in interacting with it.

“When old and familiar things are made new in experience, there is imagination. When the new is created, the far and strange become the most natural inevitable things in the world. There is always some measure of adventure in the meeting of mind and universe, and this adventure is, in its measure, imagination.”
John Dewey

Experience and Mindfulness

Well, well, well. It’s been a while since I posted a post! More than a month! At least I’m not one of those people who posts too much. . .I hope. . .
I’ve been doing quite a bit of work in the ceramics studio, and I’ll have some pictures soon (since I forgot to take my camera to the studio last time I was there). On the intellectual front, I’ve been reading Samuel Alexander’s Space, Time, and Diety (1920). I think I got those commas in the right places. I was reading it on Archive.org, and came across an interesting quote:

God is not creative. God is creativity.

However, I couldn’t find the page number when I went to find it again. My Safari browser crashed for the n-teenth time, and apparently the quote was from a version (perhaps the 1924 edition) that I could not find again. Or, I made it up, and I’m more brilliant than I thought. Alexander’s book is an attempt, like Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality and William Temple’s Nature, Man and God (I think those commas are in the right place!) to align metaphysics with the Theory of Relativity. That is an oversimplification, of course, but that’s my way of tamping down the dazzling fireworks of these ideas so that I can get this post finished. A final note, for now, on Alexander, since I’m only near the beginning of the book: he is the only philosopher I’ve ever heard of who identifies himself as a metaphysician. That strikes me as bold and amazing, since he thus gives himself permission to answer questions about “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” It’s like admitting to be an artist or a wizard. Very cool.
Part two of this post is Mindfulness. I ordered a meditation “tape” (it’s tapeless and digital, of course) from the Teaching Company. It’s taught by Mark W. Muesse, a Professor of Religious Studies. What I like is that it has a lot of background information (it’s intellectual!). What struck me is that mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition, if I understand it correctly, is very similar to what I have been trying to describe in previous posts regarding the kind of experience I want people to have when they are looking at or interacting with my works of art. In other words, to be aware of the experience of having the experience. It’s called sati in Buddhist terminology in the Pali language. It would be nice to pretend that I somehow came up with my version of experiencing, independent of sati, but I suppose I had actually come across it before, since I am not entirely unfamiliar with Buddhism. Nonetheless, this does give me an avenue to explore. In the end, we don’t own ideas. Hopefully, we readily share them.

“Art as Adventure” Video Tour

“Art as Adventure” Exhibition Tour from Mike Adams on Vimeo.

“Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure.”
Alfred North Whitehead
A video walkabout of my show at the Carr Gallery in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We had just completed the set-up when I made this video. I explain the work a little bit, which is basically admitting I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. . .I think the real meaning of the work has so much to do with the experience of being there in person with it that any other presentation or explanation is verging on disingenuous. But, these videos are fun (I hope) and recreate the experience (I hope) to some extent.
The title of the show is an homage to Whitehead’s quote, and also to the title of John Dewey’s book Art as Experience.
I’m happy to thank the U.S.-Norway Foundation for Educational Exchange, the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, and the Viking Ship Museum, for their support of the creation of “Skibladnir,” seen in this video, which was first displayed in Oslo earlier this year. “Skibladnir” has survived two Atlantic crossings, although the keel was remade for this exhibition.

“Pierrot Lunaire” Full-Length!

Pierrot Lunaire from Mike Adams on Vimeo.

Here is the first full-length version of “Pierrot Lunaire” by Heather Freeman and me. We have been collaborating on video projections for a performance of Arnold Schönberg’s musical work of the same name. This fantastic sound recording is of Schönberg himself conducting, with Erika Stiedry-Wagner performing the recitation. (Rudolf Kolisch, violin and viola. Stefan Auber, ‘cello. Eduard Steurermann, piano. Leonard Posella, flute and piccolo. Kalman Bloch, clarinet and bass clarinet. Columbia 78rpm set MM-461 (XH 23 – XH 30). Recorded in 1940. Digital transfer by F. Reeder. Here’s the link to the recording: archive.org/details/SchnbergPierrotLunaire .) I want to say it was recorded in California. How nice not to be with the Nazis in Europe. It is sung in German, but the original poems by Albert Giraud were in French.
Heather used images from NASA, which she reworked, for most part of her contribution. I took a different approach, and used video images of aerial landscapes of sea-ice near Greenland, since it looked fittingly cold and lunar. I was in Europe from August 2011-May 2012 on a Fulbright Grant, so this ended up for me as a paean to European culture. That’s why included Watteau’s painting of Pierrot (which I photographed at the Louvre) as a sort of “finial.”

Pierrot on the Go


Another “lunar” image for “Pierrot Lunaire,” video projections for a performance of Arnold Schönberg’s song-cycle of the same name. I am doing the video in collaboration with Heather Freeman, and I hope to have a scaled-down version of it in my exhibition in Idaho Falls later this year. I put “lunar” in quotes, because the image within the circular disk is the Canadian Arctic (I think. . .I was somewhere between Keflavik, Iceland and Seattle, USA. . .We had already passed Greenland, so I think I’m correct. . .). The snowy earth reminded me of the way the moon looks, bleak and cold, but beautiful. I removed the sound. I’ll get Schönberg’s music on the final version.

Skibladnir Keeps Practicing, or Skibblog

A video blog entry showing my sculpture “Skibladnir” as I prepare for a show in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Images of the sculpture as it appeared at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo earlier this year are on my website at www.MikeAdamsArtist.com

This video is an homage to Simon Leach, the potter, who makes wonderful instructional videos. My recent intensive work in the ceramics studio makes me realize how collaborative ceramics tends to be as opposed to painting, which tends to be non-collaborative, and sculpture, which is somewhat collaborative. I’m making great generalizations, of course, but there is a culture in ceramics that promotes the sharing of techniques and ideas, and a communal spirit. With that in mind, I’m showing a sculpture in progress, and hopefully in the future I can share more specific techniques.

The Whole Shebang

Here’s a link to the entire plans statement that I wrote for my Guggenheim Fellowship application that I sent off on Tuesday. The first paragraph was shown in the previous post. It’s a pdf, which will probably open in a new window, depending on your system.
Instead of struggling to fill three pages with ideas, I struggled to reduce several very important ideas down into something more manageable. In a way, it was a tug-of-war between intimacy and transcendence, trying to narrow things down, but having so many interconnected ideas reaching out into the world that it was a struggle to keep control.
My sincerest thanks to Doug Warnock at Idaho State University for having some great suggestions and pushing me to clarify some of my terms and goals in this essay (and artistically, too, of course). Also, many thanks to my Hoosiers, Sharon Sieber at ISU, and David Kendall at Indiana University. They both proofread my essays (the second of which I’ll post later), and David edited them extensively. Big Mama did the final proofreading. But as they say, any mistakes, misunderestimations, malfeasance, or maladroitnesses are my fault.

Intimacy and Transcendence: Art as Engagement

[The following is the first paragraph of a grant application essay that I am writing. I will post the rest later since I am fine-tuning it. In the meantime, I thought this was interesting enough to share, and perhaps pique your interest! I have been extremely busy both in the studio and at the pottery, preparing for my Idaho Falls show in November. I’ll post some images, perhaps a video (!), of my Gothic Forest, the making of which is well underway.]

Art is engagement, an agreement to create meaning. My creative process is a fruitful clash of craft and intellect, a balance between the joy of making something with my hands, and the intellectual process that informs my work. My sculpture is an exploration of transformation, employing the motif of voyages and migration, investigating how we maintain our individual identity and our sense of humanity, as we travel physically or spiritually to new places. Ultimately, I see my art as a fulcrum, the intersection of crafted materials and ideas, an ongoing attempt to create new, meaningful experiences. A meaningful experience is one in which there is a self-awareness on the part of the individual that what is occurring at that moment has significance—a resonance—and that it is linked to what is valuable. I believe that in art, it is intimacy and transcendence that elicit this process. It is critical that a work of art has an immediacy that engages the senses—an intimacy—so that viewers feel it speaks directly to them. But it is also critical that the work of art be transcendent, a crossroads of ideas and associations. Intimacy and transcendence are entwined, because through the intimacy of the work of art an aesthetic experience is created, conveying expressive, poetic, visual ideas, sparking the mind, opening it up to transcendent ideas that are both inherent in the work of art and lying outside of it. As I see it, intimacy is the domain of the individual, the particular, while transcendence is something broader, more overtly social and universal, referring to the communities and culture in which we participate, and the world in which we live.