Growth Period

White sulfur
collage on digital laser print

Artwise, I am in another growth period. A growth period seems to occur immediately after I have some type of revelation or insight. In this case, the Hochbaum visit was an impetus for entirely new thoughts and ideas, in addition to new materials and ways of working. groan. I hate these growth periods almost, cuz it means a lull in productivity and a change in what I do. I hate to admit that as an artist, I am in a rut. I seem to be doing things robotically instead of creatively and that's not good. I also am worrying about copyright way more than any human being should!

Not that David Hochbaum himself did or said so many things to me, it's more like my observations lately are leading me to make new conclusions. Not sure if they are correct, but that's the growth part!
David Hochbaums' studio had a serious lack of ephemera. Why? Cuz he doesn't hardly use it anymore. He makes his stuff hissself. That's creative. I notice that if I look at Nick Bantok's work for example, I detect that very little of the work is ephemera. Most everything was created by him...his stamps for example. He does them himself. He doesn't pick up a US postal stamp he likes and sticks it on there. He created an entire land, and made stamps for it. That's creative.
My work? It's generally the opposite. I use tons of ephemera all the time. I use copyrighted labels and pieces from magazines. I am creative, yes, but I also am using other peoples' stuff. Since our copyright laws and fair use are all such murky waters, I don't feel so good about this anymore. It's bugging me. A lot.

You may not know much about me. I was not a trained artist. I didn't go to college. I was a double music major in high school. Then I got married and had 2 daughters. And raised them. I was a rustic furniture maker for about 5 of those years. Moved upstate in order to be closer to the birch bark. Found artwork on the furniture made it sell. Improved artwork by doing watercolors...and discovered collage by accident. It was "home" and has been ever since. I have no knowledge of the intricacies of copyright! I know I can't verbatim copy your stuff and make it mine, and I don't do that and never would. But no one ever told me it was illegal to cut up my magazines and food labels and make pictures and sell them. ? I learned all that along the way, the hard way.

At this point in time, I want to go from being a part time artist to a professional. I am looking into what I can do in my own work to achieve this. I need to start cleaning up my act, and leaning on myself! I can paint, draw...I don't have to cut and paste. I choose to. In working on my last 2 pieces, I was acutely aware of the things that I was cutting up. I was frozen, like a deer in my headlights. My art habits are all in danger at this point. I am not certain of where to proceed. Just how much ephemera? And what types of ephemera? Do I need to spend time recording the names and copyrights of all the various magazines and brochures that I tear apart, so at some point, a gallery or publisher can justify my existence? I do like layering, I like the look of old paper, and I have gotten good at it. This change...It's paralyzing. So pardon me if I don't post my normal weekly collage exercise. I am growing. And changing. And learning.

It's all so annoying. I just want to create art. Dammit! I am assuming not everyone wants to make great art and then leave it in their closet. So, you may want to sell a piece someday. Do you get these anxiety attacks over your work? Do you care? Why should I care? ????


tgarrett said...

Yes,Yes and Yes. I have times when I totally freak out about all this and other times I let it go- if every breach of the copyright thing was dealt with there would be little collage anywhere. I do know what you mean about the growth thing though and I have found myself wanting to move on and yet scared to death to do so! It is a big groan but I feel a small flame is flickering, beckoning.

Anonymous said...

I think you should not worry AT ALL about copyright when making your work. Are you making money of this? So what is the risk, as far as that is concerned? Forget about what belongs to whom.

Don't think so much about what if you post it or what people will say. Don't post them for a while, just make.

I worked for most of my collage "career," such as it is, with no sharing, no showing, no posting, just doing. For at least 13 years. No internet, no gallery, so those kinds of concerns never occurred to me. The act of collage (and most art) must operate, to some degree, on a collective consciousness: you take and re-style. Just make. If you are always using old, "safe" and approved of images, this is what you will get and after awhile, it's all too familiar to you.

If you at heart have a deep interest in ephemera, it will still be there. Some things can't be erased and that's good because you own it. It no longer belongs to someone else.


scrapatorium said...

Part of making art is that it should be enjoyable. It sounds like you are miserable just wondering what images you can/can't use. Perhaps you should focus on your painting and drawing and see where that takes you.

I'm a collage artist, but I don't struggle with copyright issues. I create a new reality, my own language, using the discarded ephemera and papers of the past. Maybe one day someone will come out of the woodwork and accuse me of stealing their image. If it should happen, I will address it at that time. For now, I am perfectly secure and happy in my art making.

Julie Sadler said...

It's scary. Yes. But all risks are.

I AM making money on it. And publishing my own books. It worries the crap out of me.

THANKS, man, you are right. Art is my peace. This whole issue is disturbing my peace. And joy.

Anonymous said...

But how much money? The AP only went after Fairey when it was obvious that he had hit the bigtime. The whole world knows the image. The stakes are high. They waited for the big bucks and it still looks like they aren't going to get them.

If you worry a lot, it will be very hard for you to make something new. Even a little bit of worry can disturb not only image-making prowess but also confidence.


SanDee said...

I have four big file boxes full of things I have cut and torn from magazines and junk mail, etc. before recycling what I don't want. I have them all organized by color groupings and they are beautiful in and of themselves. Even sitting in piles on a table before slipping into clear 8.5" by 11" pockets, they are ART. Why would anyone sue me for this? Many of the things I collect are very small but when put with other related things, they become very stunning. I have collaged many of these over ugly photo frames, vases, bottles, etc. and have marketed a few of them on etsy. I do not make copies so am not reproducing what I glean from magazines, etc. But I can relate to what is being discussed here because when I first started hearing about copyright infringement a few years ago, I felt like my whole life was ruined if I couldn't pursue this type of art which I love and feel so good about doing. After all I am finding a use for things that would otherwise be thrown in landfills instead of buying paints and things that need to be made from resources that may be in short supply.

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