Monthly Archives: February 2010

19 February 2010

Today

words like rocks

pound into the ground.

the sharp prick of imagined slights

beneath the thunder.

Yet silence leaves me

empty.

18 February 2010

“I love you more or less each day”

Test piece

Test piece

I suppose I should have expected a period of intense frustration, but I would have preferred not to have to go through this.  I am impatient to move forward. There are so many ‘starts’ and ‘almosts’ populating my studio and sketch book that I feel like sweeping it all away and burying my head in a bucket! Although that might possibly make an interesting image in itself, it’s not exactly the way I had anticipated my work going.

It all began with a phrase (as so much of my art does), in this case ‘I love you more or less each day’. Like so many women my age, I seem to have been on a diet an awful lot of the time since the birth of my children.  It’s hardly surprising that the current  one should bleed into my practise.

I am a compulsive list maker.  Even my lists have lists and dieting provides the perfect circumstances for such an activity.  Food diaries, the ups and downs of a daily weigh in (I know you shouldn’t but…), counting calories, and so on and so on.  I began to think about the way my self esteem was influenced by a pound gained or lost. And more importantly, the wider cultural meaning of dieting. The way body image is framed and dictatated by the media and then exploited by a billion dollar dieting industry.

The piece began to take shape.  A mirror, positioned to only reflect the viewers head, bathroom scales standing on photographs of an over weight body.  Because that is so often what is seen and what is not seen.  It has little to do with reality.  I wrote the phrase ‘I love you more or less each day’ across the mirror.

But…but…there is something missing, or something that is not quite what I want.

One of the experiments I wanted to make was with the lettering on the mirror.  With this in mind, I attended a workshop on how to set up files to use the laser cutter.  I was hoping that I could use it to etch into the mirror.  Of course, this is the point at which frustration really set in.  The laser cutter can be used to cut almost anything, it can etch glass, leather, wood, even tissue paper or silk.  Of course the one material that cannot be used with it is a mirror.

Back to the drawing board, I guess.

17 February 2010

‘Every Fairy Tale has an epilogue’

Image5 fairytale

Epilogue – a short addition or concluding section at the end of a literary work, often dealing with the future of its characters. Also called afterword.

An old wedding dress in a black plastic bin liner.   I first began working on this piece in late 2008.  I had been doing a lot of research and work around memory and the way that objects become cyphers for our experiences.  So many of these objects, that we consider to be intimately connected to ourselves, personal, are in fact cultural artefacts that contain stories that are accesable to us all.  It is the old thing that we are much more alike than we are different.

A wedding dress carries associations and meanings and has a particular place within our culture.  From the moment we are introduced to fairy tales such as Cinderella, as a child, to the day we begin to plan our own ‘Big Day’, the image of a princess in a beautiful white dress holds a place and a meaning that almost anyone within our society understands automatically.

‘Every Fairy Tale has an epilogue’ initially existed as a performance piece. I wanted to subvert the assumptions that surround the dress. So instead of a ‘lovely young bride’ taking this incredibly special object out of it’s protective covering, the audience sees a very ordinairy middle aged woman carefully unpacking a wedding dress from a black bin liner while sitting in the floor. Stains have developed on the delicate fabric over the years, the woman wears no wedding ring so probably the marriage no longer exists.  The fantasy begins to disintergrate.

It is just dress. A little old fashioned. And yet it contains so many memories and the very act of unpacking it resurrects those memories and simultaneously makes new ones.

More recently I have been working on creating an installation using the photographs of the original performance  (photographs taken my Jo Clewes) and the dress and bin liner. I find the contrast between  a once precious object and its storage in a black plastic rubish bag interesting and emotive.

Judging what’s important

17 February 2010

I love being in the studios.  The opportunity to interact with so many creative people, to chat about every thing from art to last nights tv, is something I shall miss after graduation.  I think that we all underestimate the value of working beside other artists.  I often wonder around the spaces to take a closer look at what other people are doing.  It’s like having a pass to a constantly changing and developing exhibition.

Unsuprisingly, the atmosphere is a little different this semester.  There is an air of tension and nervous energy that is hard to ignore. I suspect that although some of us might complain about the pressure, it is a productive and stimulating atmosphere, spurring us on to push ourselves and our art just a little further.

I do think that for some of us who come under the umbrella of ‘mature student’, there is an extra source of pressure.  Achieving a decent degree is much more than a personal or professional goal.  Our final graduation and marks are a source of validation for the choices we have made.

We had lives before university. We were mothers and fathers, employess and employers. We had jobs or careers. We had an identity that was recognised by our family, friends and colleagues. By becoming students we changed the rules and disrupted those familiar identities and sometimes our relationships too.  For some of the people around us our actions were incomprehensible, selfish or indulgent. Maybe if we had chosen a vocational or academic subject that could be more easily related to the roles we had previously filled… But we chose art.

So now our choices are on the line. A good degree result will at least in part, offer justification for that choice.

Yet the odd thing is that on a personal level, if I block out all thoughts of other peoples opinions or judgements, my final results are the least important thing about the last few years.

Panic

16 February 2010

Experiencing the third year of a fine art degree is a very odd experience indeed. It’s like being in the centre of a tug of war or attempting to be in two places at the same time, or, well, you get the picture. On the one hand, everything is centred on ones practise. This is it. The pinacle of three, or even four, years of hard work. A search for resolution and the expression of your artistic view that can represent all the work you have done and all that is to come in one, final, student exhibition. All ones attention and effort is focused on the work. The now of thinking and experimenting and making.

On the other hand ‘The Future’ looms large, casting its sometimes scarey shadow over everything. Being a student, indeed, being an artist, is no longer enough. Thought and effort must be given to making a living and paying the bills. ‘Careers’ suddenly becomes a relevant subject once more. Employment (or perhaps unemployment?) figures and information takes on a new importance. Choices between work or further study have to be made. Oh and if you decide to take the further study route, then what? Where? Full time or part time? How will you finance it?

Application forms begin to insert themselves into your life. What had seemed like a perfectly adequate CV only last month now looks worryingly sparse.

The work piles up. Deadlines creep ever closer. The End and The Beginning battle it out.

9 February 2010

full-widthLiving and working in North Staffordshire, Michelle  works in a range of mediums  from photography and performance to sculpture.  She often uses both text and humor to make sly comment on our consumer driven, youth obsessed culture.

More of her work can be seen in the Portfolio catagory of this website.

for more information email:

info@michellehunter-gray.com

Blogging on A-N

9 February 2010

Until after graduation, I intend to mirror my blog entries on a-n’s degrees unedited web site.