Timed nicely to dovetail with my open studio this Sunday, Manhattan Times, our city’s only fully bilingual paper, has featured my work in their hot-off-the-presses home delivery edition (this image on the cover, and article p.15).
In an effort to be helpful, I provided more information than the Editor could ever possibly use, given space considerations. I’ll try to get a copy of the article posted on my website soon. In the meantime, here’s a recap of the Q and A.
Title of artwork: This piece is so new, it’s not titled yet. Occasionally a title will come to me while I’m working on a drawing, but mostly I have to wait and live with it a while before the title becomes apparent. For now, I just refer to it as ‘the new brown one.’ If you said that to me, I’d know what you’re talking about.
How did you create this piece? I draw working on the floor. Starting with handmade, colored paper from Japan, I draw each bubble one at a time by bending over the paper and blowing a mixture of ink and water very carefully through a tube. I create my composition by crawling around the paper on my hands and knees, stopping from time to time to put the piece up on the wall, so I can check how it will look from the proper perspective. If you came in and saw me engaged in this activity, you might kindly suggest that I get my head examined.
Special materials or process: I had to create a formula to facilitate making bubbles with the ink and water. But like many formulae, it’s secret! It took a lot of experimentation to get the formula just right, and I adjusted it and my technique frequently to get different effects in the drawing, such as tone, depth, and line. There were some happy surprises along the way, but also many frustrating disappointments. The humidity and temperature affect how the materials behave when I’m working, and I always have to take that into account or risk ruining a piece that has taken a very long time to make.
How long did it take to create? All my work tends to be very labor intensive and time consuming to make. I dream about being able to just dash off a brilliant drawing one day, but in reality, the methods I come up with all seem to take forever. In the studio, I am very unaware of the passage of time. I often work concurrently on more than one piece, moving from one to another, which makes it harder to gauge how long it takes to complete any single work. A California ceramic artist, Liz Crain, gives an excellent description of the two kinds of time that each piece requires. To paraphrase what she wrote: One part, hard time, is more active, involving the hands-on time actually applying ink to paper and dealing with creative and technical challenges posed by the piece and test pieces. The other, equally important soft time that one puts in it is more hands-off, and involves research, contemplation, looking, waiting (for clarity, inspiration, the ink to dry), and a lifetime of learning and experience.
What’s the meaning of the work to you? A fascination with the abstract essence of nature is at the core of my work. I find that drawing helps me understand a deeply felt personal bond with nature: our place within it, our relationship to it, and our responsibility to care for it. Lately, I’ve been contemplating water as both an inspiration and a drawing material. The bubbles are a means of making marks on the paper, yet they also become evocative of other things, like eggs perhaps, or clusters of stars or galaxies. Blowing bubbles is one of the joys of childhood (and adulthood, for some of us), but it’s impossible to ignore that they are heartbreakingly fragile and short-lived – a metaphor, if you will. By using art to investigate and interpret the systems, structures, and wide-ranging ways that we connect with the natural world, I hope we might come to understand our crucial vulnerabilities and respond meaningfully.
What do you want people to see when they look at it? I would like people to see something that engages and excites them. I hope to encourage a feeling of possibility, and perhaps wonderment. Our sense of vision, like our sense of smell has the power to connect to things deep in our minds in a way that has nothing to do with spoken language. I would like people to see something in the work that they realize they somehow recognize, without necessarily having the need or ability to name what exactly it is.
Why did you want to exhibit this piece in this location (at my open studio)? For me, the studio is the place where curiosity always trumps cynicism. The fun of having an annual open studio is that I can meet art-lovers in person in a more casual setting than a formal gallery show. In the studio, people get a chance to view not only my current work, but some earlier work as well, and even some things that may have never been shown elsewhere. Seeing the variety of ideas and approaches affords a broader understanding of how the work has evolved. An open studio provides a valuable opportunity to interact with the public about the work and its many layers of meaning. In my experience, these exchanges strengthen the appreciation of both the creative process and the importance of the arts as part of any dynamic society.
[image above, Untitled, copyright Sky Pape, ink on handmade paper, 39”h x 25-3/8”w, 2009. Photo: Jean Vong. See more like this here: http://www.skypape.com/folio.htm]