Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The more I think about the "small scale = intimacy" knot, the more I have to examine its constituent parts. Yesterday, it seemed that intimacy involved some human parameters in the viewed object. Today, I'd disagree with that sweeping conclusion. For example, in comparing my responses to Constance Hunt's small piece of a nude to Kathe Todd Hooker's close view of a rose, neither one triggered a sense of intimacy. Therein lies the puzzle.

It is possible, of course, that I'm a defective viewer. To determine that, you would have to go look for yourself, wouldn't you? For me, all I can do is unravel my own responses to discover what they entail, and test them to see whether they seem relevant, consistent, or just quirks. The more I examine the issue of scale and intimacy, the more I conclude that the first factor does not inevitably produce the second. Perhaps a small scale object has a higher probability of feeling intimate, but the smallness does not assure it.

Tapestry has a long tradition of monumentally scaled works that push viewers back in order to see them comfortably. They tend to overpower you into feeling insignificant and can be difficult to comprehend -- they take hours to view rather than minutes. Technically, large scale tapestry retained life-sized proportions to convey that "it really happened," but the sensation sought by most tapestry makers was not intimate but panoramic, wide in narrative scope, and holistically inclusive of detail and meaning. Such an agenda suited large-scale work. In the process, they often included a plurality of details in order to maximize information and thus realism... "yes, they fought that battle when the strawberries were blooming." In contrast, then, you'd think that small-scale tapestry would take on the opposite set of characteristics. Rather than panoramic, the tapestry would focus in on something, much as close-up photography works. Rather than wide in scope, it's narrative would limit itself to a moment. And, rather than holistically inclusive, it would select only a few details. All of which might add up to a sense of intimacy. But it doesn't quite do that.

Now that a larger number of small scale tapestries get exhibited, I can think about them empirically rather than theoretically. It makes sense that the range of possibilities extends further than just "small scale = intimate." So I really shouldn't be surprised. It wasn't until I saw an intimate large-scale piece juxtaposed to a wide selection of small-scale work focused on a particularly intimate topic that was monumental in scope (the MTP) that I saw the error of my thinking.

I do enjoy going back over previous conclusions and re-working them. It is one of the aspects of theoretical writing that most people gloss over: without the errors, no corrections or adjustments get made. We need the errors in order to see -- and think -- more clearly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Mondays just insist on being Mondays. At least I got a chance to work on redesigning the American Tapestry Alliance website, so that the project heads into a test phase. I also did get to physical therapy (actually, I really like the whole process of p.t. where I get to focus on something non-intellectual). However, I didn't get to the loom. My impatience always grows if I don't have time at the loom.

News from Monday: it turns out I don't have a purchaser for "Cloth of Construction (Tarps)". The deal fell through. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Travis and I started talking about designing a house to hang the piece. He found it a delightfully humorous idea: to make a construction (a house) for a construction (a tapestry) about construction (a building). As usual, I missed the point and he had to explain it to me. ;) The circularity did, indeed, delight me. Now I can't drop the thought and it keeps popping up in my brain. (Brains are singularly difficult and taciturn when it comes to control.)

Getting back to the "Tapestry Today" exhibition at Soundscape Gallery in Santa Rosa.... and the idea of art and intimacy. Perhaps the "small scale = intimate" formula was my own invention. I can't recall exactly how the relationship emerged. No doubt I discovered it when small tapestries began showing up, roughly around 1988. Most small objects draw us in close in order to see them. The viewer's proximity and inspection can induce intimacy only in the broadest of terms, based on physically being close. As I think about it more, a sense of intimacy more likely comes into play with closeness to other human beings and, by extension, animals. I'm less sure that I could say the same would apply to an inanimate object, such as a rock or a twig. To put it another way, the chance of triggering the intimate response with closeness drops as the distance from humanness of the object increases. A featureless stone will probably not trigger a sense of intimacy but it is likely that a stone carved as a figure will.

I want to contrast two pieces from this show but I need more time to think about how to do that.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Yesterday I took a drive up to Santa Rosa to see the tapestry exhibition put together by TWW at Soundscape Gallery. I haven't gone to many TWW events over the past few years and I think it's time I started again. An additional incentive, besides wanting to see people, was the display of the MTP, or Memorial Tapestry Project.

The gallery occupies the back areas of a stereo store, in a series of rooms that act as showcases. Perhaps a furniture store used to occupy the space. Spotlights vary considerably in effectiveness and brightness, although only a few pieces suffered. Basically, the space has a sprawling character to it that requires a group of artists to fill the walls. Without the artwork, the stereo setups look pretty basic even for high-end systems, so I think I understand their need for something good on the walls. And if anyone is wondering whether tapestry affected the sound quality, I can't tell you since very little music played during the reception. Kinda of odd, huh?

The Memorial Tapestry Project looked good. It covered two full walls, in a very tapestry-like way -- from just under the top molding strip to a few feet off the floor. It gave everyone a lot to look at, with enough variety and detail to hold your attention for a considerable amount of time. Going back to look again rewarded me with an awareness of pieces I missed the first time around. However, in going back several times I finally noticed the way pieces were attached to the black background cloth. The system has a haphazard quality to it. Remounting the works on a full cloth with less patched-in strips and squares would improve it. Ah well. Maybe most people don't pay attention to such things.

Meanwhile, I have to say that seeing Monique Lehman's self-portrait (the one that was on the cover of Fiberarts years ago) gave me food for thought. It is a beautiful piece. Oddly enough, the piece feels intimate even though it must measure 5' high. It is a blow-up that enlarges her profile from slightly above and behind. Her eyes look upward with a troubled gaze, as if she were sitting or kneeling, and her attention seems to be turned inward. She is unaware of being viewed. This brings into question the "small scale=intimacy" equation in a way that surprises me. I need to think about it more.

Constance Hunt had a beautiful small piece of a reclining nude done in tones of peacock blue on a black ground. A jewel of a piece, displayed on the wall with several drawings of nudes (perhaps of the same model) tucked behind. If this piece were set on a table, it would be as if a stack of drawings just happened to yield up a tapestry, or as if I had stumbled on it in an artist's studio. On the wall, however, it's a bit contrived.