While I stood contemplating this little sculpture, I imagined myself in the moccasins of its creator, and suddenly I understood something that the primitive artist enjoyed and that I seek.
The carver of that little statue was “just doing stuff”.
“Just doing stuff”! It was a charming piece, not at all an accurate representation of the proportions of the human figure. I imagined its creator bowed to no canons, no rules, no concerns for how others have done it. Nobody saying that’s not what a knee looks like, or why did you carve those little U’s at the bottom of the skirt, or I don’t get the sense of this person breathing. The sculptor was “just doing stuff,” following the impulses or ideas that inspired the work.
It may well be that in fact the artist was abiding by strict rules and had had to endure many critiques in the course of learning how to make those figurines, keeping to a process that sucked the originality from the work, but I don’t want to believe it and I don’t care. My insight was that it is possible to make art by “just doing stuff”, and that I aspire to working in that frame of mind.
My challenge is a bit more complicated than that of my imagined primitive stonecarver; it is complicated by the presence in my brain of all those canons and dictums and art history and rules and suggestions that I have learned over the past fifty-some years. The ancient American artist may well have been aware of which sort of stone made the best carving tool and how the material would take to that tool and even how this figure would be viewed, but still my intuition was powerful. That artist was “just doing stuff.”
Stop for a moment. Please, reader, I want to be very careful to convey exactly what I mean by “just doing stuff.” I do not mean working carelessly or casually, but I do mean the relaxation of those bossy censors, internal and external, that talk us out of every little deviation from their dictated path.
I want that feeling of “just doing stuff,” and I want my viewer to get that sense of my work, but I also want my art to be educated by what I cannot pretend not to know. (That’s a necessarily convoluted way of saying I want my art to be educated by what I know.) Is that possible? I believe it is. But to keep that feeling of freedom requires a bit of juggling. Some “knowledge” has to be ignored, while other knowledge similar to it has to be kept steadily in mind.
Let me think about this a little more.