bad work

One of my favorite artists from back in the 60’s was Eva Hesse.  Not only did her sense of form resonate with me artistically, but I also feel a kinship with her in how she approached the nature of art work in general.  Unlike many successful artists of her time, she openly struggled as a person in making her work.  Hesse regularly wrote in her diaries and to her friends about her fears, anxiety and depression and how these things affected and were echoed in her work.  And still she worked.  She was fortunate, as am I, to have friends who acted as sounding boards for her and who often fed her great advice.  One such letter was from Sol LeWitt:

“…Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, gasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, scrambling, hithing, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning…..grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself.  Stop it and just DO…. Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor’.  You belong in the most secret part of you.  Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool.  Make your own, own world.  If you fear, make it work for you – draw and paint your fear and anxiety.  And stop worrying about big, deep things such as ‘to decide on a purpose and a way of life…’  You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty.  Then you will be able to DO!  I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good.  Try to do some BAD work.  The worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell.”

I love this letter to her and seeing the amazing, prolific legacy of work Hesse left behind, she must have taken some of it to heart, in spite of her self torture.  This week I have been in the studio a bunch simply trying to re-engage the space.  I realized recently that with it being so cold, I have been avoiding coming out here.  Some days it just seemed like too much effort to build a fire and wear so many extra layers.  So here I am in my beautiful, chilly, glassed in art space.  Re-engaging.

Lewitt’s letter to Hesse seems so fitting to my own process these last few days as I have been timidly approaching the wax table a bit in the hopes that I can come up with something that won’t eventually wind up in the fire-starting bin.  I need to allow myself to make some BAD work as I find my way around and through this tricky medium.  I need to have faith in the process and not so hard on myself when in the midst of it.  So here is the first few layers of what will probably be a bad painting.  Not a finished work, not pretty.  Just a sign of progress, of work being made, of forward motion in the studio.  And that is enough.

2 thoughts on “bad work”

  1. As I was recently reading ‘The Artist’s Way,’ I copied this quote in my sketchbook: “Remember, that in order to recover as an artist, one must be willing to be a bad artist.” Also, this one: “At first flush, going sane feels just like going crazy.”

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