I hadn't felted anything in a very long time. Years. And I have so many sculptures stored in my attics and basement that the prospect of making more sends my head spinning and turns my stomach. I don't intend to show it again, the work is over for me, and I keep it because, I don't know, because an artist is supposed to, I am told.
So for my friend SF's birthday, I went rooting through my stash for the rusty scissors I had found long ago in a junk yard and set aside with a mental note that I would make a sculpture with them for her. She has a wonderful collection of scissors and this seemed like a fitting gift.
Over the years, SF has gifted her art to me - several drawings and a painting on paper. More than that, she has gifted me with her generous mind and soul. Every conversation I have with her is thoughtful, thought-provoking and fruitful. Her discipline and dedication toward her own art practice is inspiring. Her support and insight into my art-making process has touched me deeply. Energized me. She is a valuable colleague and mentor.
I have never given her any of my art. I struggle with gifting my art to people. It is a conundrum for me. I find it awkward to pick out a piece (that I made) for someone else. Aside from the fact that much of my work is described as creepy or morose (and is a lot to assume that a person would want to live with a piece of it), choosing art is an intimate thing. I dread bestowing a gift that someone might not want, is polite to not reject, and then feels obliged to not only keep, but to display. It feels like an arrogant maneuver. Unless. Unless, it is someone whose admiration of my work I can absolutely trust and I am close enough to know their sensibility and aesthetic. And of course, it is also handy if they tell you directly the pieces that they absolutely want. Then there is no mystery. The exchange is transparent. (Boy, do I love transparency.)
I was deeply satisfied as I sat on my patio in the filtered sun, working the tiny wool fibers with the tips of my fingers and feeling the slow but inevitable shift from an almost gummy, wild, mop of wet woolly tangle into a snug, smooth piece of felted cloth. As I worked, I reflected on the many years I spent making art with as little as my hands and a ball of wool. To work today, I sit in front of an enormous monitor hooked up to a G5 and tap at a keyboard.
I long for more work with my hands in my video work. Shooting with a camera is very sculptural to me and satisfies this physical need to a large degree. Even then, you can shoot hours of footage, but eventually you have to do something with it. Still, the connection with the body - the sensual, the haptic, the touch - is buried with the product when you make video. I've been trying to reconcile this, to merge these sensibilities, with the sculptural video. And at times, I just accept that they remain separate... I either make a sculpture or I make a video. Finito.
Anyway, I think it is appropriate that a gift for SF was in turn a gift to me: a reinforcement of what I know and who I am, and the certainty that it is enough for now, and that all is still shifting. Like felt over a piece of rusting metal.
I think she liked if very much.