March 28, 2015


[Administrator's note: My recent correspondence with artist, Sara Wright, may be of interest to readers of this blog as an enlightening glimpse into my continued critical interaction with a former art theory student. The following emails are presented here in sequential order and unedited.]

March 17, 2015:

I have been working for around a year on some stuff... Here is my artist statement. [Note: Wright's first draft wasn't attached; it's re-printed below after my first reply.] The installation is comprised of Approx 10 pieces. It is small space. Most of the works are in progress as of right now; I find that working by switching gears often is the most productive for myself.

I do not have a website (i know it's awful, but I am really just too busy. I can promise a strong image list and resume). 

I have been working on my statement for quite some time now. I have sent it to folks in my roloddex from differing backgrounds, so naturally I have gotten mixed reviews. 

I am sure that you are busy, but I am hoping to get some feedback from you concerning my statement. I feel like I have finally nailed it down and possibly I need support or direction.

Thank you, good sir. 
Sara Wright 
Hi Sara,
Thx for your email - I think that "contact form" on my web site doesn't allow attachments.

If you had something you wanted me to take a look at pls re-send here.

[Sara's 1st Draft "Artist Statement"]
Octavio Paz pegs Duchamp’s Large Glass as a common vicissitude of love and knowledge in art:

“Duchamp’s work is a variation-yet another one-on a theme that belongs to traditional art and thought of our civilization. It is a twofold theme: love and knowledge. It has a single goal: to penetrate the nature of reality.  It is a variation in meta-ironic mode: love leads us to knowledge, but knowledge is barely a reflection, the shadow of a transparent veil on the transparency of a glass.”

We Did it Wrong explores the nature of interpersonal relationships: the construction, representation, and the perpetuation of the social construct and collective memory that is the “American Dream.” Images are a vehicle, specifically the snapshot and its context in the family album, which simultaneously create an ideal and represent a reality.

This work deals with the idea of love and knowledge. My process is performative in that I make work as a means for catharsis and self-reflection. With this installation I deconstruct to reevaluate my own traditional beliefs concerning love, domesticity, and how I measure success.   
Without seeing “the piece” it’s difficult to get/give a sense of what it represents – thus, my critique:

Starting with a Paz quote on MD’s Large Glass opens a vast chasm of intellectual premise, theory, interpretation & POV on what connections your work will have. The splicing of “American Dream” to love/knowledge perhaps would benefit from a better metaphor than Duchamp’s hypersexual perpetual coitus interruptus. One more thing: hasn’t the “snapshot” been undone by selfies, Instagram, etc?

If you want to represent “the idea of love and knowledge” you’re approaching two huge abstractions, one of which (love) has been deluged with clich├ęd imagery. As for knowledge, this will prove challenging to reduce to simple presentations. Obviously, juxtaposition will be key.

I also have a problem with the description of your photographic “process” as “performative.” Making photos in & of itself isn’t performance, even if cathartic, unless the “installation” you describe involves you as performer.

Let me know when you have a site up, or can share images.
March 24, 2015

Exactly how frowned upon is it to submit without a substantial website? I intend on having an image list and a rudimentary website by the deadline, but my ideal website just isn't in the cards (considering my photographic archive) for the deadline.

To give you more context: this is a statement for a proposal for a small solo exhibition in a 900 sq ft. space. I will explain the pieces further as they are somewhatl still in progress and i don't have sufficient documentation at this time.

I am creating an accordion book ("PROOF") built with found photographs of the American Snapshot that I incorporated typewritten text expressing doubt, sadness and loss.

I have been collecting eggshells (as a lover once told me he had to walk on them in my presence) and affixing them to raw linen canvas with upholstery studs. This is 48" x 48" and will be a floor piece.

A queen mattress with the words "This is a Canvas" scrawled over it.

The sign (from my senior thesis that wasn't displayed) made from palette wood that lists all of the words hyphenated with "self" in the dictionary.

Appropriated painting of ex, white gessoed  with a faint image that appears under the layer with an oil painting the same size, (displayed on the opposing wall) painted solid black

 Video documentation of performance of cutting wedding dress of off myself with my grandmother's Singer sewing scissors projected onto wedding dress fragments.

Rotary phone, gutted, equipped with an Arduino kit that is tripped by interval timer to ring and when picked up plays "crossed wires' of voyeuristic conversations: i.e, man and woman arguing, dial tone, phone ringing, women gossiping.

Kintsugi/Polterabend: Heirloom, smashed porcelain German made China, pattern name: Antionette. Recreated in a three dimensional mess of a sculpture bastardizing the ancient art of kintsugi.

Thank you so for your highly admired feedback. After a couple days of percolation I was able to muster up another draft and compose this email to you.

I hope you're well. Thank you again for your expertise.

Much adoration,
March 26, 2015
[No salutation.]
Somewhere back in the day, in one of those theory classes that I taught (you took at least one of them) I usually mentioned that the best conceptual art work doesn’t even need to be seen. I'm certain that I used the example of Duchamp's urinal – all I have to do, I said back then, is to describe that MD bought a urinal in a hardware store & entered it as an artwork; everyone “gets it.” The concept itself goes far beyond the object that conveys it – the mere description carries it & yields that all important discursive “how do we define art?” Further investigation of that question revealed that idea about context & it’s bearing on that distinction.

Having said all that, the work that impresses me most is your eggshell piece because its simple description conveys the concept immediately & might provoke discourse on many levels. Because of that power, I wonder why it has to default to a wall-hung object; shouldn’t we hear that sound of eggshells crunching?

The rest:
PROOF – Photo-text is tried-and-true format (V. Burgin, B.Kruger, D. Graham) but without the words I can’t say more than it is “valid.”

"This is a Canvas" seems very Gedi Sibony, or Tracey Emin, to me; its inclusion depends on further development of your “theme.”

“The sign (from my senior thesis that wasn't displayed)” – Liked this when I first saw it & it could “work” with the whole (see above) theme.

“Appropriated painting of ex” – By who? The relation of this to opposite “Black Square” could be vague in less-than-supportive architecture (need short distance separation). Still, seems a bit “heavy-handed” to me.

Video of cutting wedding dress – Absolutely not advised; leave self-pity to Sophie Calle.

Rotary phone – Unless I know what the “argument” is about (content) it seems like a “stand-alone” piece about other ideas, i.e. linguistics, communication, privacy.

Kintsugi/Polterabend – Second best piece; little contemporary use as a form & has strong metaphoric potential re: theme. 

Would you be opposed to me running our correspondence on TheoryNow? I've been posting sporadically (busying myself with music & other projects) & thought this might make an interesting series of posts. You could be an "anonymous former student" if you want or be yourself. Let me know what you think. 

March 28, 2015
[No salutation.]
This email was amazing to receive. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and guidance of the work I've been doing. 

It would be an honor to be included on your theory now blog. No need to be anonymous. I try to not be anonymous. 

I was thinking it would be interesting to sew the wedding dress fragments back together or to leave them in a pile and have them be a piece without the video. 

The appropriated painting of ex: It was a black and white self portrait that I gessoed over but the layer is just thin enough that you can slightly see through it but his gaze is very strong. He painted it from a portrait I took of him and he looks very angry. I honestly think it can stand alone and I agree that the black would be a filler although it does reference the darkness that was our time together. (Heavy handed) 

The rotary phone came to me because I was taking an online art appreciation class for a friend and a line in the book about a Mary Cassatt painting of a woman at a writing desk struck me. "A large majority of a woman's day was correspondence."
So yes it is certainly about communication. 

Thank you again. My deadline is on Sunday and I doubt I'll make it because I have two big deadlines at work this upcoming week. 

Still trying to not sound like a verbose art snob in my statement. Did I send you the new version? [Sara's Final Version is below.]

"Artist Statement" 
We Did it Wrong consists of ideas that I have grappled with for a few years now. I am working in a variety of mediums to deconstruct in order to to reevaluate the inherited ideals of success in this country. Some of the themes I address are related to femininity, domesticity, traditions and the abstraction that is love and its inherent connection to self-knowledge.   

A friend once told me, rather simply, that I am in love with being in love. Possibly I am conditioned to believe that being loved is bound to personal success and happiness. My conquests and subsequent failures have created skepticism toward such traditional thinking. Through my art practice I have evaluated how an archetype has affected my wellbeing and notion of self worth.

Octavio Paz speculates in his criticism of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) that a healthy majority of art in our civilization is a quest to better understand love and knowledge, while it is merely a transparent glass reflecting a faint image of self. My work is a questioning of my place within the sphere of my personal relationships and ultimately my desire to create a narrative with another.

February 26, 2015

History of Painting 1

The History of Art is said to begin with Lascaux and cave paintings, of which human hands figure prominently. Thus, from the beginning, writing functioned as assertion: “I am here now.”

Primitive cave dwellers also depicted bison and other Paleolithic creatures. We can surmise then that they perceived themselves and the Other equal in importance.

Because the hands are conveyed in both print and stencil (“positive” and “negative”) representations, this provokes one to imagine also that cave-people had at least rudimentary comprehension that their physical body existed within a space, or a World. These are remarkable thoughts in the minds of these 17,000-year-old hominids.

If you think it a leap of conjecture to imagine such thoughts were possible in the Paleolithic brain then you aren’t considering what men and women have always been capable of: conveying the Outside, filtered through their eyes, onto an Exterior Space for pure regard, or Contemplation.


© Copyright 2.12.15

January 14, 2015


January 11, 2015

To [Art School Name Deleted], Office of Admissions:

I have been an Adjunct Professor of Art at Corcoran College of Art + Design for 11 years and during those years I have often wondered why I teach art. Adjunct faculty salary is subsistence level at best, there are no benefits and we have virtually no voice in how our school is run. But there are those rare students now and then who can sometimes provide a revelation to us teachers of how empowering and rewarding arts education can be. Whenever I do encounter such a student as X-X, with sheer creative verve and intellectual ability, I am glad that I keep coming back to these studios and lecture halls.

X was a former student of mine in two of my art theory courses at the Corcoran, Art as Social Practice in Fall 2013 and Postconceptualism in Spring 2014. Clearly, X has a passion and boundless curiosity for contemporary art and artists. During this time, I came to know X as a student with an inquisitive mind who was receptive to complex theoretical concepts such as appropriation, site-specific sculpture and relational aesthetics. In the often-intimidating classroom discussions, X’s energetic and productive contributions were most welcome. Moreover, X wasn’t opposed to listening with an open mind to differing points of view, which is invaluable for promoting enlightening discourse. He also displayed strong academic writing and research skills in equal measure in his essay assignments for both of my art theory courses.

In his senior year at Corcoran, X developed an intelligent body of work involving installation and sculpture. It was immediately apparent to me that he had clearly combined his understanding of complex art theoretical issues he had studied with his own practical application of the multiple media of object making. I was also present during X’s “BFA Thesis Project” critique and his piece was a highlight of the 2014 “NEXT” exhibition at Corcoran Gallery. Later that same year, I was able to curate one of X's works into my Readymade@100 show at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

In conclusion, I would like to include a couple of quotes from X’s email request to me for a recommendation because what he says about art education and what my courses meant to him exactly express why I am recommending him to you:

“In my years at The Corcoran I experienced the joy of learning under many professors, almost all of which made lasting impressions on how I approach my practice and how I understand works which I observe. Out of all of those professors and instructors I believe that you and the courses I took under your instruction have made most of the strongest impressions of all. The concepts which we discussed and explored in both ‘ASP’ and ‘PostConceptualism’ have really helped me to understand how I can manipulate materials beyond their physical nature and provide them with a new identity, given the context of the presentation.”

What strikes me about the connection that X makes between what he learned and how he uses it is his comprehension of the essential relationship between theory and practice. To read such thoughts, articulately expressed at such an age by a student, is nothing short of remarkable and this is why I continue to teach. X then further described his current work and this even more accurately conveys his grasp of the association between theory and practice:

“My objective is to re-contextualize certain objects, ones which truly fascinate and intrigue me, and place them in scenarios which provide the viewer with a newly found recognition of the object's potential, identity, and presence through the notion of desire. I believe that much of my intrigue and inspiration is built on a foundation of the practices and concepts we discussed in both courses you instructed.”

As such, I feel that it is of paramount importance that [Art School Name Deleted] accept students like X into your program: he will be a beneficial and rewarding educational experience for your professors as well as a valued peer to his fellow students. X-X would be an exemplary addition to the MFA program in Sculpture at [Art School Name Deleted]  for Fall 2015 and I strongly endorse his application.

Should you require further information or conversation, please feel free to contact me via [Cell Number Deleted].

Mark Cameron Boyd
Adjunct Professor of Art