blindspots

{Tim Hawkinson  Blindspot, 1991 Photomontage Collection of Tony and Gail Ganz Photograph courtesy Ace Gallery via}

I’ve seen this piece by Tim Hawkinson before, and have chuckled at its cleverness, but somehow missed the fuller profundity of it until recently.  The artist tracked down the parts of his body that he couldn’t see directly… his back, his face, the documentation of which is an eerie skinned animal effect.  Grotesque and honest.  (I couldn’t find a larger image, unfortunately.)

His simple description:

BLIND SPOTS The areas of my body which I could not directly see were defined by tracing the inner periphery of my visual field. The areas within these boundaries were assembled into a map of my body’s blind spots.

But it just became something totally transformative to me when I thought about it in terms of our fixed perspectives.  In an almost claustrophobic way, I was able, through Hawkinson’s illustration, to conceive of the ways that each of us our trapped in our own bodies… we’ll never see our own faces unless indirectly– a reflection in a mirror, a photograph.  If you peel it back a little further, even our “direct” sight is a highly mediated experience.  Our eyes pull in the reflected rays, translating the projection on the backs of our eyeballs into a complex set of neurological symbols.  In any case, it’s a picture to me of our limited perspective.  A physical, almost tangible way to admit to our blindspots in every area of life.

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extreme tension that breaks into laughter

(Louise Bourgeois)

The response is never nonchalant when I tell people I have three boys under five years old.  It might be a sympathetic sigh, a knowing grin, a shocked cringe or a mocking chuckle.  “You have your hands full,” can be said in a host of tones, and I think I’ve heard them all.  It can even be accusatory… a ”how-could-you-let-this-happen?” lurking behind the spoken phrase.  More positive versions marvel at the work that we are able to do in this time (both my husband and I are working artists).  The truth is that we live in a constant struggle against complete chaos, and we’re always working.  Always.  Working.  It’s a piecemeal, half-distracted sort of work, unless we pay someone in order to allow us to focus, or organize each other into longer stints of solo child care.  The other side of the coin is that we’re always playing.  Always.  Playing.  Since that’s the work demanded of you as a mother or father, and also the best part of the work of being an artist.

Today I read that one of my enduring favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois, also had/has three sons (image above found here).  I was pretty excited until I also discovered that she didn’t really start producing as an artist until after she’d raised them.  I’ve always loved that she has stayed fresh and active for so so long, though, so she remains a role model.  And I think there’s something to be said of the emotional complexity that comes from raising kids– not superior, of course, but different.  I tend to run out of time and energy before material.  It pours out of the cracks.  I cup my hands to grab a little before it disappears.  In reality, this means grabbing a pencil or the corner of this blog, in between the Sisyphus-like exertion of dishes and laundry, board games, playgrounds and toilet disasters.

One of the only and best releases of the tension that we live under is laughter.  If I forget to laugh, I’m in bad shape.  So are my sons, of course.  Luckily, they are often catalysts, and remind me to lighten up.  So the tension shivers apart as we get a glimpse at exactly how absurd this set of jobs can be…

(The shape of this space, this blog, is often under my own scrutiny for how public and private intersect, how my professional life and domestic life converge and diverge.  One lodestar that I use to determine content is whether it would be useful to anyone else.  In addition to just getting some news out about shows and whatnot, it has long served me, and hopefully others, as a place to think out loud about the joys and challenges of the balancing act that is my life.  So I think about other parents and other artists, how I’ve totally been buoyed by reading about someone else’s experience along the way.  Hopefully it can meet someone else in this way.)

she works hard for the money

The title of this post is also the name of the piece above.  The song name (and tune) kept sneaking into my head while I was making the drawing, and I just couldn’t avoid calling it that.  It’s a sort of personification of architecture-as-ideal, and she does, indeed, work hard.  I’m so attracted to the idea of architecture as a tool toward the achievement of Utopia, even if the actual application of those principles through time tends to fail in a spectrum of extremes.  You know– like Utopian political ideas or intentional communities.  Anyone who has visited a celebrated building can attest to the tension between the transcendent and the pedestrian.  Richard Meier‘s buildings are lovely, white, clean things, but if you visit them in person, you’ll see that crane flies especially like to camp out on the reflective surfaces.  Dirt flecks and grass clippings defame the exterior at human scale.  Having been part of a couple of human community experiments, the latest of which is my own growing family, I can also attest to the real-life strain of working out life against ideals of peace, love and understanding.  (What’s so funny?)

So the building is also me, in a sense.  I’m enough of a romantic to enter into the challenge of building under the constraints of aesthetics and pragmatics with the lofty goal of achieving a harmonious finish.  And I’m enough of a realist to know that when you add people to the mix, and wily old nature, things fall apart.  May they be beautiful messes.