Artists

A Collision of Universes in a Rug…or Lucretius On the Nature of Things

Last night my friend and long-time colleague Brigita Krassaukaite arrived at my home armed with beer and a packet of Quadratini dark chocolate wafer biscuits. I don’t drink beer but I do eat wafer biscuits. I had put a bottle of Beaume de Venise Muscat in the refrigerator for Brigita who drinks sweet wine and eats wafer biscuits. She had come over late, she felt, though it was only eight-thirty, to work on her bio for her debut rug design at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair this weekend. I had asked when we met last week if I might read it.

After she was seated comfortably in the armchair I said, “Your bio is perfect if what you’re looking for is a job in corporate and your aim is to be as interesting as last week’s news.” She unleashed her infectious laugh. Almost nothing can quash Brigita’s love of life, its absurdities, its mysteries. Her love is expressed in her personal beauty, her tenderness toward all living things (except cockroaches), her love of individuality, her advocacy of aesthetic beauty and strength in Woman, her deep love of art…and her most disarming quality, an unquenchable openness to truth.

I have known Brigita for fourteen years, through perhaps some of the most difficult years of my life, in my capacity as an administrator of my father’s estate. Through thick and thin she was there for me. And, more importantly, for my father’s art. Perhaps out of everything she did for my father’s art and his estate, all of which I have not one second’s doubt my father would have admired, approved and been proud of, it is her trustworthiness and optimism that remain most dear to me. I mention these two particular qualities of her as employee, colleague and friend because she shares them in her rug Stand, in spite of its sobering inspiration. Stand will be on display in the Dandelion Rugs booth, as part of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Conference Center, May 14-17, 2016.

What always disarms me when I speak with Brigita about art, in spite of knowing her well enough that I should no longer be taken by surprise, is her originality of thought, her depth of felt perception, and her unerring ability—like an arrow released from Artemis’ bow—to strike at the heart of a work’s voice, its illumination of the culture that gave birth to it through the artist’s vision and sensibility. I think I am always caught off guard because Brigita always speaks so little about herself. She rarely displays the depth of her knowledge of art and life, either philosophical or practical, unless asked point blank. It is like tapping on the side of a mountain, not expecting much to happen because in general a mountain is still, silent, tranquil, and suddenly finding oneself inside Aladdin’s cave, surrounded by infinite treasures and gems hitherto unimaginable.

It took very little effort on my part to revise her bio with her and bring her vision and voice to the page. (As I write this about voice and vision I am reminded of Peter Brook’s famous statement on producing a play: If you just let a play speak, it may not make a sound. If what you want is for the play to be heard, then you must conjure its sound from it.) If you wait for Brigita to speak about herself she may never utter a sound—that much was clear from her original bio. It would have served well as a wrapper for fish and chips from a chip-shop in the old days when this quintessentially English and best of all take away foods was liberally sprinkled with salt and malt vinegar and wrapped in old newsprint. But her bio did not serve well to describe her as an artist, and designer of textiles and rugs.

If you spend time in communion with Stand, you may find yourself drawn into the world of an extraordinary mind and soul. Brigita’s mind absorbs everything life has to offer, as much as any one mind can. Her soul breathes in and releases the eternal beauty of Woman and her stand in the culture into which she finds herself born.

I had only seen an early sketch, a tiny photograph on an iPhone screen. I was unprepared for the finished work: a collision of universes assailing my visual and emotional experience, transfiguring an object of everydayness into the ineffable.

Stand. Designed by Brigita Krasauskaite. Hand knotted in India.
Stand. Designed by Brigita Krasauskaite. Hand knotted in India.

She wrote later that night, “I would never found Myself in words without you.” I did not reply. If I had, I might have said: “I would never have found you in words without you.”

 

BRIGITA KRASAUSKAITE

Brigita Krasauskaite

In her debut design for Dandelion, Brigita Krasauskaite meditated for two years before and during production on the intersection between where women stand in the culture, and the universality of geometry that has inspired every culture to express the ineffable; finding that expression in the rhythms of Nature that shape the unique landscape of every country, inspiring their artists to pay homage to Nature’s boundarylessness in their art.

Born in Kaunas, Lithuania Brigita Krasauskaite received formal training at the Vilnius Academy of Arts where she completed Masters degrees in textile design and fine art.

The rug Stand: Its inspiration and the artist’s manifesto.

Upon stepping into a mosque in Turkey overflowing with its glorious craftsmanship, I was rudely awakened by the reality of not being able to admire the sumptuous mosaics of the central main dome from within the central prayer space [because it was roped off and…only men can go into that space…] of the architectural masterpiece.

 

preparatory sketch for the rug "Stand" artist, Brigita Krasauskaite
preparatory sketch for Stand

Although my eyes were able to freely travel throughout every angle of the beautifully tiled interior, it was not until they rested upon the enormous rug, with its repetitive pattern, which physically unites the entire space, that I finally was able to stop thinking about the religious restrictions.

 

preparatory sketch for the rug "Stand" artist: Brigita Krasauskaite
preparatory sketch for Stand

 

 

 

Stand was designed using a combination of two contrasting patterns: the opulence of Baroque style ornamentation juxtaposed with the intertwining structure of the mosque’s rug pattern; both superimposed over and seeming to restrain the depiction of three standing female figures uncovered from the waist down.

Preparatory sketch for the rug "Stand." artist Brigita Krasauskaite
preparatory sketch for Stand

It is my continued interest in and love of textiles which fueled to my decision to use the medium of floor covering to convey the fact that a rug is one-dimensional; and when standing upon it we are all on one even level. Essentially, we are all equal.

 

 

The rug "Stand" in Central Park, New York.
The rug, Stand, designed by Brigita Krasauskaie, displayed on a rock in Central Park, New York

Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,
Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars
Makest to teem the many-voyaged main
And fruitful lands- for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived,
Through thee are risen to visit the great sun-
Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on,
Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away,
For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers,
For thee waters of the unvexed deep
Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky
Glow with diffused radiance for thee!
On the Nature of Things – Lucretius

The theory of Democritus held that everything is composed of “atoms”, which are physically, but not geometrically, indivisible; that between atoms, there lies empty space; that atoms are indestructible, and have always been and always will be in motion – Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

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The Age of Transformation: Where Nothing Is Safe, Especially Not Your Identity

Since there’s a conversation on the merits or demerits of Richard Prince’s recent “transformation” of photographs lifted from Instagram happening on the Facebook wall of my friend John E. Simpson, after he posted this article, I came across a different one, which said, among other things, “Everything inspires everything. But this isn’t an excuse to blatantly steal. If I plagiarize a column from Saltz and replace his byline with mine, would he consider it genius?” – Allen Murabayashi

I think the answer is that it would still be plagiarism if the only thing Allen Murabayashi replaced was Jerry Saltz’s byline.

However: What if Murabayashi were to take Jerry Saltz’s text and reformat it with different calligraphy and computer fonts; in much the way Richard Prince took Instagram photographs and “transformed” them using silkscreen? Would Jerry Saltz’s text be considered sufficiently transformed that it would become Murabayashi’s to sell, for as much money as his “transformation” could attract? Or could Jerry Saltz claim that merely altering the font and “look” of the text didn’t transform the originality of his thought realized through his choice of specific words?

At what point, or in which way, can one use another person’s writing, verbatim, and claim that by manipulating it visually– that is, calligraphically–the text itself has been transformed? Because that seems to be at the heart of the Prince argument and his “transformations” of other people’s images.

And if I alter this remediated image of Prince’s exhibition of photographs he appropriated from Instagram, does my remediated image qualify as an original work of art? Perhaps. At the moment, however, it simply qualifies as fair use, having been published in news articles and reposted widely on the Internet.

prince-photographs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Fail, to exist

wonder-woman
Wonder Woman – DC Comics

I was reading Marta Pelrine-Bacon’s post Speaking of Failure and it got me thinking. Partly, because my cleaning lady whom I call Wonder Woman is here today, and I feel energised by her company to tackle the last of the unpacked boxes that have remained unapologetically stalwart against the wall opposite my bed. As I was unpacking a box of materials I’ve bought over time to make various projects, most of which have been used, a few that have not, I thought of Marta’s post and her collection of unused supplies, and put mine aside to send to her. Better that they clutter up her house, right? (After all, she has a whole house in Texas; whereas I only have a small one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.)

I went back and forth, of course, in my mind: should I keep them for myself…just in case? But, just in case, what? I ever get around to making something with them? Unlikely. There are only so many hours in the day and thinking up more projects is not part of my plan for January, or February, or the rest of the months leading to Summer and beyond.

But I also began to think about whether there is such a thing as failure in the creation of, well, anything?

As I put the kettle on to make tea for Wonder Woman and me, the Monkee’s playing in the background, I thought back to my days as a director and the rehearsal room. Was everything that got “rejected,” “set aside,” “discarded,” “abandoned,” a failure? If we had kept every idea the actor or I, or the designers had, what a bloody mess the whole thing would have been. And nothing successful to show for it; other than a kind of hoarder mentality. Instead, what I learned from Jerzy Grotowski was that you look at the seed of what the actor brings into the room and peel away everything extraneous to the truth.

Isn’t that also the case of all seemingly abandoned “art” projects? Didn’t they begin with an idea, an impulse, an inspiration, to create something that glimmered or flashed for an instant in our mind’s eye? Or perhaps had been contemplated for a long time and finally the moment to begin appeared to knock on our personal doorway to Time. “Here I am,” it said, “do with me what you will. Except I will tell you when you’re doing it wrong by not making it right.”

From there my thoughts carried me to here: What if whatever you believe or think brought about the Big Bang or evolution had never begun? What if [it] had said, “I won’t begin, because I will fail.”? How could we get to know the truth, in even the smallest measure, of how infinite the powers of creation, beauty and love are, if only for an instant?

 

 

Theory is all well and good

Frank Porcu
 

I was going to write about the colander effect–a term coined by Meg Rosoff, which I heard her speak about in Salem last November. In fact, I began a post with that title and how the effect manifested in my January 1 post with the unexpected appearance of Miss Barbara Wace, a renowned journalist and travel writer who was one of my mother’s clients. But then the phone rang and it was my friend Seth Michael Donsky with whom I became acquainted during my graduate years at U.C. Irvine in the MFA directing programme for theatre, under the mentorship of Keith Fowler. Seth was an undergraduate at the time. I admired him for his perseverance, his tenacity, his will power, and his desire to do something different, to experiment with creativity. We lost touch after I left New York in 1994 and did not reconnect until he found me again through my website, in 2013.

He called this morning to talk about a play he saw last night, largely, because it wrestles with many of the themes he is exploring in his own play in progress, Irregardless. We covered a lot of ground in our short conversation, most of which is hard to replicate in a post, but three things stay with me.

The first is the death of our own creativity every time we compare ourselves to other people’s successes. So much of what makes creativity successful is having confidence in the truth of our own instincts and work.

Zuli Souza sleeping-at-lamp
Zuli Souza

Last night I went to drawing class with Frank Porcu for the first time in two months. First, I missed class in October because I was ill with bronchitis. Then I was away in Salem, the first week of November. As soon as I returned I had to pack up my apartment on the west side and move myself into the apartment I bought last summer on the east side. After which I had to unpack everything and get Zuli Souza settled. As a result of so much extra activity, so soon after my illness, I didn’t regain enough strength to do more than sit on my sofa and catch up with myself. I decided to wait until the New Year before returning to class. As always, being in class with Frank was inspiring and gave me much to think about, including some of what I’m writing about today.

As Frank went around the class, he told a student who had over-corrected her first instinct–what she had actually seen on the model–that she must trust herself, even if the initial line she had put down looked wrong to her brain. Her instinct, he told her, had shown her the truth.

He spoke of how hard it was for him as a teacher when he started out to have that kind of confidence when he was trying to show students how to see the truth that was in front of them. Because the brain, through the eye, was telling him–and them–something else. “Of course,” he said, “after you’ve gone home and drawn it four hundred times you feel confident in telling students, ‘this is how to see the truth of the model.’ But for a long time I couldn’t call what I was teaching a method, because I couldn’t prove it.”

There will always be people infinitely more talented than we are who go unrecognized. (I feel that way about Frank Porcu’s genius at the Art Students League. So few recognize him as a direct succesor of Bridgeman. Or, to take it farther back, as Frank himself has, to Michelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael.) There will equally be many people who are not as talented as we are and who will garner successes beyond measure.

The most important thing is to trust the truth we instinctively see.

And to let go of everything else.

The goal of all theories is to prove their veracity. But the theory itself can only go so far. This was the starting point of this post. It was inspired by something Frank said to an advanced student in yesterday’s class. But I think it must wait until another day, in order to be explored in more depth, and in a way that captures the essence of what Frank was trying to convey.

Of the third thing I wanted to write about today–hidden motive–it too must wait.