May 11, 2017

Where Do Ideas Come From?

After writing the last post, it occurred to me that I've never given all that much consideration to where ideas for art come from. I've been ruminating about the specimens - or potential specimens, really - and how the idea of them first surfaced for me in the 90s while I was in art school. What formed that idea? Why does it keep coming back?
I've been trying to connect the dots, trace the idea back to its origins. I think it comes down to a convergence of many, many influences. Oh how I hated that word - influence - in art school. I conceived of it as a negative force. I dreaded the oft asked, inevitable question: Who are your influences? It made me think of copying rather than incorporating, of being unoriginal rather than being inspired by everything around me. To set the record straight, The American Heritage Dictionary defines influence as, "a power indirectly or intangibly affecting a person or course of events." OK. So all I have to do to trace the origin of the specimen idea is unearth intangibles that affected me 25 years ago. Piece of cake.

Sarcasm aside, I do have a pretty good handle on many of my influences from that time because they have stayed with me. These influences got me thinking in a more organized, focused fashion about:
  • innate sexism
  • the female body being objectified
  • the female body being used as a political tool
  • the female body being vilified
  • crimes against women and our bodies
  • the advertising industry inventing inadequacies about the female body and selling "solutions"
  • the medical industry inventing inadequacies about the female body and selling "solutions"
  • deliberate ignorance about the female body to justify all of the above
I've shared these cross stitched and embroidered pieces previously, but they're here again to illustrate my first forays into specimens. The idea keeps coming back because I haven't explored it beyond a handful of pieces - some of which no longer exist. Those pieces were the scum off the top, the practice pieces that happen before the magic happens. If the magic happens. Regardless, the magic absolutely can't happen without first slogging through the scum. And then continuing past the scum, inventing and exploring and trying and rejecting and trying again. I'm poised to try again on those specimens that have yet to coalesce into concrete imagery or form.

For my own benefit, and if you're interested, these are the influences I can remember at the moment from the early 90s.
  • Sheela Na Gig by PJ Harvey
    which led to discovering Sheela-na-Gig and Sheela works by Nancy Spero
    UPDATE: Actually, since this in the was pre-internet explosion days, I combed libraries for mention of Sheela-na-Gig, convinced by the song that it was a real thing and stubbornly determined to do whatever it took to find it. I believe I first found Nancy Spero's work then, eventually, learned about the figures on churches in Britain and Ireland.
  • Ani DiFranco
  • Riot Grrrl performers

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