I am so happy to be sharing a studio space with Loretta Cummings. She is an artist who works conceptually. "Use attention, perception and time as your art materials and the world becomes your studio," she has said. Her gallery is often found on Twitter, or nowhere, or in her own presence during the action, a moment made art, through its ritualized recognition of the action.
I remember when I met Loretta. She and I both were students of Jennie Kiessling, an amazing Front Range Community College teacher. We were enrolled in a summer session of an art appreciation class exploring contemporary art. It was a fun learning experience, with an energized group of folks, and involved much traveling around our regional area on field trips seeing lots of great art. There was much discussion about the works of contemporary artists, including Piplotti Rist, Bill Viola, Marina Abramovic, Cindy Sherman, among others. This was my first time experiencing many of these artists, and what I learned in this class still impacts my work today.
After the class was over, there was a group of us that continued to meet. Our discussions, and museum and gallery field trips were just too enjoyable to discontinue. To this day, they are my biggest resource for support and inspiration in my art practice. They are my critique group, my educational resource, and my back up. I can count on this small group of fellow artists to keep me on the right path.
I remember very clearly the first group critque session we had after the class. This is something that can be difficult to find once an artist leaves the educational institution. A good critical discussion about the work is needed if an artist is to grow and expand in their work. Needless to say, seeing Loretta's work for the first time blew my mind. (See her piece she shared with us, "Post Cleaning Me - 7 hours of not cleaning" below.)She was working in such a way that I had rarely experienced in the past. Her ideas are the work, her actions its manifestation. The objects created, or documents of the project are secondary bi-products of the work - NOT the work. This was totally new to me, but I was intrigued. I too, have my reservatons about making objects to sell. Art as commodity is not really what I am interested in. To create work and sell the work for large dollars is not why I am an artist. The art market is daft, as I have said before, and I am not very interested in it as a creator. It is the creative gesture, the expresive actions that motivate me to return to the studio.
For the Studio Tour, Loretta will be performing a new work that involves the audience, a decision and a documentation. Intrigued? This will be an opportunity to actively participate in an art work's creation, to become the medium, and express your ideas in the action. Where do your values lie? What do you value more, experiences or acquisitions? It is sure to be a sweet or rewarding experience, so stop in to our studio to experience her art for yourself. Don't delay, supplies are limited. (Download the map from the Lincoln Center website.)
Post-cleaning me – 7 hours of not cleaning
In this artwork I spent consecutive 7 hours not cleaning anything. From 10am to 5pm I did not pick up after anyone, even myself. I did no scrubbing, sweeping, vacuuming, ironing, washing, bill paying, or financial organizing. I did not play support services to any family member. If the phone rang and I thought that my help would be requested I did not answer it.
I wanted to induce helper mentality deprivation in myself. What would happen if I allowed myself the sheer luxury of not feeling compelled to help anyone for a short period of time? How would I feel if I forced myself to drop that sense of “obligation to help” that defines how I unconsciously think of myself, what I regard as my reason for being here on the planet. This sense of obligation has been part of my life forever. Every moment of every day I scan to see what I can do to make life run more smoothly for those around me. Not doing this requires minute by minute resistances to my habitual reactions to what I observe.
How would I really feel if this obligation suddenly disappeared? Empty? Worthless? Purposeless? Would I begin to scan for something different instead? How would I use my time? Was 7 hours enough to even get a sense of this? What if I could really live a life in which I felt more empowered to act on my own ideas and less obligated to take care of the needs of those around me? In my life (my perception of it anyway) everyone needs my help all the time and it is simply easier to take care of all those needs rather than doing my work. What if I gave myself the gift of all the time I wanted to pursue the ideas I have?
This is an on-going artwork that I intend to remake often.
· I noted that the toilet was developing a pink ring. I did not clean it.
· After I ate a slice of toast I placed my plate in the sink. I did not load it into the dishwasher.
· I noted that the bathroom sink was dirty with drying toothpaste caked on it. I did not clean it.
· I noted that the bird feeder was empty. I did not fill it.
· I noted that the cat was begging for a treat. I did not give him one.
· When it crossed my mind, I did not go online to look at Christmas presents for anyone.
· I made a pot of tea but I did not offer any to anyone else.
· I saw that the plants in the kitchen needed watering and trimming. I did not do this.
· I noted the kitchen floor was full of cat hair. I did not sweep it.
· I noted the kitchen counter was covered with crumbs of toast. I did not wipe it.
· I noted there were tea bags in the sink. I did not put them in the compost bucket.
· There were two phone calls I needed to make to arrange appointments for others. I did not make them.
· I noted the frames on the pictures in the front room very dusty. I did not clean them.
· I noted that Mick’s gloves and keys were misplaced. I did not move them.
· I remembered I needed to make a grocery shopping list but I did not do this.
· I wanted to make crackers because we didn’t have any but I did not.
· I noted that our bed was not made. I did not make it.
· I noted the cheeseboard was left on the kitchen counter. I did not put it away.
· Our dog was whining. I did not feed him.
· I noted that the toilet seat on the downstairs toilet was loose. I did not fix it.
· I heard the doorbell ring. I did not go to see who had arrived.
· I was worried about my children but I did not call them.
· I noted that the bathtub was dirty and the shower stall was covered with soap scum. I did not clean it.
· I heard people downstairs. I did not check to see who it was.
· I noted that drawers and cupboards were open in the kitchen. I did not close them.
· The phone rang and Mick answered it. I did not check to see who it was.