Welcome to a new feature on my blog!
Beginning now: On every 15th of the month I will feature a guest blogger who has embraced the challenge to present a topic near and dear to her heart and related to the topic of art.
Please help me welcome Susan Wittrup of Regina, SK
Lifespan of an Artwork
Years ago, I was chatting with renowned Haida artist, Robert Davidson, about his work. I was surprised that he did not use any preservatives on his wood pieces whether totem poles or house fronts. His reasoning was that art should be allowed to have its own lifespan, whether long or short, and it is not up to the artist to interfere with this process. At the time, he was working on a house front which, a few years later, burned to the ground. Nothing left but ash.
While I was horrified at the loss, his words came back to me and gave me comfort. This particular piece was one that was not to be granted hundreds of years. I grieved for that piece, and still do as it comes to mind from time to time. I can only imagine how Robert must have grieved. Just as a parent grieves when the unthinkable happens and a child is lost. But there was creation, there was life.
As fiber artists, we are dealing with extremely fragile materials, often combining them in ways that work against long term survival. Dyes, beads, glue, paint, stitch, all stress the fabrics in one way or another. Sunlight, dampness, rough handling, even gravity, provide further threat to our work. As in Life itself, these pieces face a daily struggle to survive. Some pieces will defy the odds and live for many generations. Just look around you to see evidence of age old textile pieces—a great grandmother’s cross stitch work, a Kente cloth brought back from a trip, a piece of lace from a wedding veil, the Bayeux Tapestry and so on.
And then, there are the pieces that vanish in a fire, are lost in the mail, or thrown aside before even being completed.
Regardless of longevity, we are brought together as a community to wonder at the act of creation, to hope for a long and happy life, to mourn when lost. Like the artist, any artwork is meant to live, and ultimately, to die. I believe that our role as artists is to allow the work to blossom forth and then follow its own path. Show your work, enjoy your work.
Thank you, Susan! I was very intrigued by Susan’s article and would like to encourage all readers to weigh in on the subject by leaving a reply today! Susan will have an opportunity to review these comments.