A Body for My Body of Work

Since my last post regarding the need for a body of work, I’ve had a conversation with an artist/instructor who gave me some much-needed feedback on what I’ve done so far.  He also introduced me to new materials and techniques.

Before we finished the conversation he let me see pieces of an exercise for one of his classes, not unlike the exercises I remember from art school.  I haven’t done anything like this for a while, but I liked what I was seeing.

A couple of days later, I did my own version of the exercise which meant creating six different papers – four of mine were hand painted or stamped on plain white paper and two were modifications of already printed paper with stamps or pen and ink.  After everything was dry, I got out my paper cutter and cut each piece of paper into a lot of strips and other rectangles in a variety of sizes.

I used a sheet of Bristol board for six 7″x7″ supports.  Bristol board is not really heavy enough, but I was vamping and it was handy. Then I started to play.  The goal was to use at least a small piece of each of the six papers in each of the six collages.  It was rather like doing six jigsaw puzzles, each different.  I was pleased with the results and especially with the cleaner lines than most of what I’ve been doing.

My favorite piece of advice from an instructor at Maine College of Art was:  “Rich and complex, not complicated and confusing.”  I’ve held those words as a measure of my writing over the years and even of life in general.  Now I was applying it again to the art.  But the pieces seemed perhaps too clean, a little sterile and I wanted more richness, more complexity.

I’ve had a wonderful little image of a nude woman sitting on a stack of books, back view, for some time now and I realized she was the right image for these pieces.  A single image on each of the six pieces.

They’re finished now.  I like them and I laugh to think I have a start on my “body of work” with a real body in the picture. Honestly, a writer’s mind never stops…!

A "body of work..." Molly Larson Cook
A “body of work…”
Molly Larson Cook

The Map and the Body

Work in progress.
Work in progress.

I love maps.  One of my uncles was a surveyor and he taught me a lot about them when I was a child, made up map games and generally instilled in me a love of these beautiful and useful tools for finding one’s way.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop at The Studio Door in San Diego, a wonderful, relatively new gallery/studio/workshop space.  The workshop, titled Art To Market Road Map and led by owner/artist Patric Stillman, was exactly that.

I came away with pages of information and ideas especially helpful to the fledgling that I am.  I keep thinking of the wise words of an artist friend I knew years ago:  “We are all richly gifted with inexperience.”

Believe me, I’m incredibly wealthy when it comes to inexperience!

One of the pieces of information/advice from the workshop that rang a serious bell for me was the notion of developing a body of work.  I’ve done a number of collages over the past couple of years, many that I like a lot, a few that I’ve put into gallery shows elsewhere, most of them stacked against the wall, but a body of work is something different.  Even with all these pieces I realized, alas, that like the old song says, “I ain’t got no body…”

The notion stopped me for several days as I considered how I wanted to approach developing a body of work.  I’m an eclectic thinker and writer and now artist, and I tend to wander hither and yon, experimenting with this, trying out that.  A body of work means at least a semblance of commitment to a subject or form or idea.

After several days I settled on an image I’ve used more than once in my work – that fact alone led me to understand that the image was important to me in ways I had not yet considered.

I was in the middle of another piece that I’m in the process of completing and when I do, I’ll move on to explore the beginnings of my body of work feeling confident that it’s not only possible but the first step in a great adventure.  Ideas are churning all the time.

I’ll still experiment and try new ideas, but the very notion of the body of work has provided a much-needed anchor for all that experimenting.  I don’t feel constrained. I feel freed up.

And I have a good idea where I am on the map.