Global art prices grew 27% in 2006. That is an incredible figure, especially when you consider how quickly they have grown in preceding years (2005: 10.4%, 2004: 19%).
That simple phrase took me down a path of memories through my own experiences in the world of art. Now I’ve never had the pleasure of being directly involved, as subject or creator, with any art that has been sold to anybody for any price. But this might just be the time for that to change.
When I was a college student I became friends with a talented photographer by the name of Barbara E. Cavin. I had the pleasure of being her primary model for a series that explored aspects of light and dark. The image to the right is one of her untitled works from that period, which was quite an exciting experience for me. I was an art model! I went on to model for a number of art classes that needed figures to record in ink, paint, and charcoal; I can’t say how many renditions of me might exist. I’ve always felt that the human body is both beautiful and sacred, so if nothing else I was making a few bucks in keeping with my values.
I went on to try my hand as an art student, but became frustrated by petty concerns like rules and talent. Creation of art requires some amount of each. However, the rules given to me chafed as much as the predetermined definitions of talent. One semester in one class made it obvious to me that art as a career wasn’t going to be my destiny.
That didn’t stop me from wanting to create art, though! As stupid as I thought the rules were, as sure as I was that my talents did not lend themselves easily to creating art, I found myself . . . creating art. It took a lot of time (extremely peaceful time, I found) and a fair amount of encouragement from Barb, but in 1990 I was accepted into the annual Juried Student Art Show at SUNY Potsdam. At left I’m pictured at the opening with my composition The Effect of Reaganomics. Almost as an afterthought, I entered the piece Titled in the competition as well, and its stark simplicity likely spoke the the juror in contrast to the cacophonous imagery of my other entry.
My interest in art was renewed by these successes, and I began exploring sculpture with earnest. Never having been particularly good with tools, I worked with any number of transient media, including glue, thread, croutons, and guitar strings (a material that proved to have stunning successes, such as G-String Dragon and Small Furry Decisions, as well as many failures). After much soul-searching I realized that my successes came from the layered, solid technique I had initially tried; it reminded me of what I imagined the creation of an archaeology dig would be like. The dig is created by time adding layers of material that records history for the people that are willing to destroy it in order to unlock its secrets. For me, art worked best when I knew that there were secrets inside my creations that no one would ever see without destroying what I had created.
Retroarchaeology was born in 2001 when I returned to my candles and created Job’s Lament, the first of what became a series of pieces that reflected on the events surrounding September 11 of that year. The term itself didn’t catch on until sometime in 2005, some fifteen years after the first piece was created. I’ve seen a number of different materials used, including fabrics, adhesives, and packing supplies. These pieces take a long time to create, encouraging a thoughtful construction and intense dialogue between artist and composition.