Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Comfort Thoughts

Comfort Kills Pursuit: FIGHT!


April 2008

Comfort kills pursuit

Fear kills comfort

Pursuit kills Comfort

-Tyrus Smalley

Comfort kills pursuit: FIGHT! is a personal mantra for one’s self to be proactive about obtaining one’s goals; a small phrase that warns against complacency and stagnant behavior. Its purpose is to inspire us to battle routine and monotony in our lives. Complacency is the killer of progress and a destroyer of dreams, and in time it can turn freethinking or creative thinkers into fear toting routine robots that perform the same movements without thought of change. On a daily basis we fight our comforts. The fight to get of bed and leave the comforter’s warm embrace, to face daily activities, stuck in traffic fighting and jockeying for a faster lane and quicker route only to be elsewhere, fighting for parking, struggling to beat the ticks of a clock and the date of a deadline. For me, the mantra speaks to all this including my creative process, the exploration of new ideas, and challenges with personal issues.

Comfort Kills Pursuit: FIGHT! uses boxing and quilting as the installation’s metaphors. The quilting imagery was chosen for obvious reasons-they are much like paintings, they are a testament to hand-made labors of love. Quilts provide a safe refuge from the cold. They have ability to tell a story through patch worked scraps of fabric. The idea of taking nothing to create something is impressive to visualize. While researching ideas, I jotted down this quote on scrap paper from the article Quilts as Symbols in America, by Jamie Leigh: ” …quilts and quilting are used to convey certain themes of self-expression, union of opposite values or people… the formation of close bonds, kin, heritage, history, family, comfort, love, and commitment.” The writing goes on to say”…Quilting is a medium that can bring contrasting backgrounds together to create a new meaning from the intermixture of its contrasting influences...” The thought of quilts recording history and meshing ideas into a union of various thoughts is a harmonious pattern that relates to my work. In the imagination the hand painted patterns represent small crops from larger paintings that were created in one’s visual past. They supply small details of information about the quest to develop an aesthetic that is uniquely Southern and contemporary. They are patches of struggle, comfort, and break-through moments about ideals.

With inventive thinking it’s simple to compare the artists and boxers. Both individuals require rigorous training physical and mental months before the exhibition. Creatively, it feels like one has to train their hands and ideas in preparation. The artist is up nights jumping rope, hitting the bags, sketching, reading, questioning, truly searching and becoming serial killer obsessed and focused on an idea.

In boxing there is also the interwoven issue of race that has been quilted into the fabric of the sport dating back to the times of Jim Jefferies who came out of retirement to fight Jack Johnson. Jefferies claimed "I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro." This was the creation of "The Great White Hope.”

In creative thought, The Great White Hope is the gallery. It is the stage set by its four white corners mimicking the boxing ring. It is an opponent that has eluded many of fighters or artists. We all believe in its mythical power and its collectors’ ringside seats to elevate and hype our careers to the next level just by hanging there.

Comfort Kills Pursuit suggests that the fight is not a physical fight with thrashing left hooks, upper cuts and jabs that would send paint flying, but a fight for mental liberation. There are many things in our lives that we are fighting to free from our minds. What are you fighting? I am fighting for liberation from a history of images that portray black males as strange fruit, machinery, and property. There is a direct relationship with these images that show humans in horrid conditions. Some events occurred in my father's life time, such as bouts with the Klan that have been woven into the fabric of my family’s stories. How have these images affected the thought process and the image of self? How have they shaped the spirit? For me, the Boxers offer a strong positive image for the psyche. They are heroic. The poses comment on the physical strength and confidence that it takes to pummel and be pummeled. The boxers are tough and encourage us to pursue the win.

There are several aspects of boxing and quilting that could be explored and elaborated upon. The ring girls could be distractions and obstacles in the rounds of creating works. In quilting, maybe that would be sticking one’s fingers. The bell could signal a finishing point, the sound of a new round of ideas or new patches of fabric. Throwing in the towel is unexplainable. Quitting is not an option. The fight is to continue to pursue the win.

Even beyond the boxing and quilting, the phrase can be applied to different areas of thought. I have asked this question to my own imagination one million times. I hear my colleagues question their creative environment and its lack of community. Has Atlanta become too comfortable in its pursuit or fight of defining and establishing a contemporary arts society? When will we realize the unique character of the region and use it to our advantage? Declare Atlanta and our scene just as avant guard, fresh, and talented as cities like Los Angeles and New York City. Has Atlanta become a commercial gallery setting pursuing the sale of works for interior decorations? Personally, have I become comfortable with the idea of art as consumer products and tailored my statements to fit the criteria for success in a commercial gallery society? Seems like all I think about is the sale and not the work itself. Make it sale it. So I am partly fighting to gain my expressive voice. Again I ask, What are you fighting for?

So, It is part of my creative process for ideas and subject matter to crisscross and mash up like the layers of paint that are applied to the canvases or the patch work fabrics used to develop a quilt. Some ideas are clear and others are there as symbols. The cute characters, drips, color blocks, automatic scrawl, cryptic phrases and jokes all have significant meaning that relate to the works. In this body of work I try to explore many things at once as I understand how they relate to the ideas in my brain and the installation’s title.