What Lives in the Work
“What it is to see is not already defined, and our eyes can thus remain open upon an infinity of views, of sights.” — Luce Irigaray
Making came first and then writing. It began with images and is how I learned to see, not just the external world but the clouded interiority of my self. What drew me into the world of images was an initial experience in the darkroom. The first print I made was the physical conjuring up of a scene that until then only existed in my mind’s eye. Through exposure with the enlarger, I brought from thin air an image into a kind of permanent state on the paper. That experience was (and for some still is) a common one: the excitement of seeing an image appear in the print as one agitates the developer. Darkroom magic. Of course when my image came up, it was bad: muddy, too dark, the framing askew on the paper. It was the beginning of a long evolving form of knowledge through craft. But that magic for me was not located in the chemical process working with the light-sensitive silver. Looking back now, I realize what it was then: the latent image. The presence of something there, its potential emergence and intrinsic action, its existing invisibly, is what truly struck me.
The process of making is one of constant push and pull where an openness to the unexpected cohabits with original and shifting intentions for the work. Craft, and what it can offer, designates a certain discourse that I often look to in order to broaden or deepen my understanding. As such, I converse with it and slowly a collection of forms, concepts, thoughts, and feelings begin to round out what the work is. An artist compiles a language uniquely their own, built from previous experiences, gained knowledge, intuition, and a compendium of resources and techniques. This is always present in a work of art whether obvious or not. To make is to become sensitive to the invisible and immaterial existences that are imbued in the works of others.
Each time I respond to another’s work it is a return to the beginning, of developing the latency that lives in the work. In this way I allow myself to experience the unfolding of forms, of space, of intent, and of meaning in total. To approach it openly is to be receptive to its message or reality, as a conversation between mind and object, or eye and image. From that, something arises that only the maker and viewer can make known. It is a conversation because I, in the end, speak back. My experiences, knowledge, memories, and idiosyncratic vision inform my response to the work. This kind of symbiosis opens up the possibility of an understanding of the innate properties between head and hand, concept and material; it preps the writer for a kind of slow looking and slow thinking that draws out from some latent state what the work actually does.