Looking at my wall of R + D, collage pages of crinoline, skeletons and Irving Penn’s wife in nude, we started talking.
My art professor Curt congratulated me for Friday’s showcase and asked me how I felt overall. Smiling and nodding to his applaud, I told him I was happy that lots of friends came to support and that I was somewhat satisfied by the final piece.
I expressed that my original plan was to create three pieces, but due to the time constrains, I changed course and decided to create one quality piece instead of three mediocre ones, thus causing a slight disappointment. Curt agreed.
We looked at the wall imagery.
Curt pointed to my sketches and traces of dinosaur skeletons. He expressed that “not to be mean”, but he found the imagery of such sketches to be far more interesting than the actual 3D piece. I was mildly surprised but agreed to his comment in the sculptural context. The sketch had an interconnected skeletal tail as a left arm, collaged onto the dressform, with a jewelry-wired mock up as the torso, acting almost as a tunic, completed by my muse whom I ‘discovered’ from a B&W photograph of a young Victorian-era girl. He said I had leaped out from my boundaries in the collages and sketches and wished I had done so with my 3D piece. I protested that would force me out of the realm of fashion. But again, my work wasn’t exactly a garment.
In fact, I wasn’t sure how to label my piece. It wasn’t a garment, since it wasn’t wearable. It didn’t have zippers, the proper seam allowances or fasteners, either was it properly sew. It wasn’t a fully developed sculpture either, making me referring it to ‘my work’, shunning all labels. We dived into this identity crisis and dissected the differences between art and design.
On Artist vs. Designer
I asked whether he thinks I’m more of an artist or designer. For sure as an artist, he replied. He pointed at my loose craftsmanship: the fraying black denim ties on boning hoops, the uneven machine stitches, the carefree drapery and unfinished hemlines. I nodded and laughed at my own craftsmanship, but not a bit disgraced.
I revealed and admitted that I am by no means a meticulous crafter. And this is a concern and somewhat obstacle for me since as an aspiring designer, I need to sew and construct functional garments. I shared my experience talking with established designers and their emphasis on technical skills. Curt nodded, agreeing that at the entry level, it is indeed important to gain as many skills as possible, but how I utilize them is another issue.
Curt shared an anecdote about his dreams of becoming a guitar player growing up. Only in high school did he realize he will never become a guitar player because he simply wasn’t good enough. And that was ok. I wondered if that was a cue for me to give up. I wondered if my repeated concerns about identifying as a designer, the insecurities of garment construction and craftsmanship are indicators for me to change goals. I wondered what else will I work towards.
As my thoughts run amok, Curt added that my dilemma will absolve itself through time. And that, it is usually the experiences that change our course of action and not merely thoughts from our head.
I wonder if I can think it through and find what I truly want.
On Wants vs. reality
We highlighted the distinction between ‘what we want to become’ and ‘what we really are’. I thought about social media, arts, advising, research, psychology, fashion design, illustrating, all the disciplines I touched upon but do not master. I thought about what I am actually good at and what I love doing.
I love arts and creative research, concept building and reading references. I love fashion. I love making things that present my thoughts. My thoughts are the backbone and essence of all creations.
In reality, my professional experiences lie in advising, social media and lab research. I thought of the clashes. I thought of improvements. About my piece, about life.
Critiquing on the actual piece, Curt expressed that within the contexts of fashion, my piece was by far the most interesting compared to previous years, mainly due to the creative research behind it. My heart melted to the compliment. But he also noted that in a gallery context, it is unusual and unnecessary to show sketchbook pages on the walls. It is more interesting to make the audience work through my thought processes on their own and make the piece more interpretive.
It is when the audience gather clues themselves, through their own analysis and arrive at- the artist’s intended message, that makes an artwork ‘interesting’.
Curt asked me where I will go from here. Misunderstanding his question, I went on talking about making more pieces for my concept. He meant after graduation. With mild embarrassment, I revealed my exciting and reckless plan of moving to New York City. Curt then shared his NYC travel plans in 2 weeks and how he had already planned out all the galleries and shows to visit. We went crazily excited for a while.
He shook my hand really tightly and wished me luck. I reciprocated the handshake with as much might as I could. He told me that he really enjoyed talking with me in our critiques and really challenged him to think. He said I have a lot of potential and passion and thinks that I will do great in whichever path I chose. Of course, being my usual self, I wonder if he was just being a nice teacher. But, regardless, it will be a lie if I was not feeling pleased.
And with that, I departed from the gallery.