Saturday, November 14, 2009

ESSAY: My Art Group

By Riki Moss

This is my art group.

We've been meeting more or less monthly in each others studios for over a year.

This month, at Janet Fredericks, in front of Nancy Taplin's paintings: (left to right) Cami Davis, Sally Linder, Riki Moss, Linda E Jones, Nancy Taplin, Janet Fredericks (seated, center.) Missing: Jane Pincus and Tari Swenson. And last month, at Jane Pincus' studio.

Before starting our critique, we all declared that we wanted more, we wanted to go deeper, we wanted to be braver, less cautious and at the same time, helpful, useful, impersonal and positive. For it's all about the work, not the person, right?

Right. We've been making art all our lives, we know this and still...still...we felt we weren't going deeply enough.

The presenter had to take responsibility for wanting an honest critique, to formulate questions she was trying to answer for herself, to open her work up for discussion without personal vulnerability. The responders needed to dialogue freely and thoughtfully, without bias, personal agenda and with the best of intentions: to help a compatriot welcome the art god gracing her shoulders today.

Cami Davis suggested that we consider using the four steps in Liz Lerman's Critical Process.

So we did.

Here it is:

1. Statements of Meaning
: Responders state what was meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, striking in the work they have just witnessed.

2. Artist as Questioner:
The artist asks questions about the work. After each question, the responders answer. Responders may express opinions if they are in direct response to the question asked and do not contain suggestions for changes.

3. Neutral Questions: Responders ask neutral questions about the work. The artist responds. Questions are neutral when they do not have an opinion couched in them. For example, if you are discussing the colors in a section of a painting,, “Why was it so dark?” is not a neutral question. “What ideas guided your choices about color?”

Opinion Time: Responders state opinions, subject to permission from the artist. The usual form is “I have an opinion about ______, would you like to hear it?” The artist has the option to decline opinions for any reason.

That's it! It worked for us.