Do Something Simple

by Susan on Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A friend of mine decided to make art that could fit in her pocket: a piece of fabric with needle and thread, a tiny note pad, miniature items like paperclips, buttons, feathers. This way she could always make something in the precious time between a work meeting or picking up her kids.

I love the economy, modesty and the constraints of this set up. It speaks to the possibility of making and finding art anywhere. This is something I thought about a lot in grad school, and this intention influenced my Artist-in-Residency Project in San Jose, where I gave myself a simple set of instructions to 1) do something 2) use what is available 3) don’t be destructive of other people’s property.

The following are three artists I admire for the economy of materials as well as the poetic concept behind their works. There are many more in this category, so this may be just a start to an ongoing list.

Lenka Clayton’s conceptual projects are rooted in observations of the everyday. However, her simple actions take us to a place that is poetic and wonderfully absurd. She recently started a Residency in Motherhood that brilliantly reflects on her own life of an artist/mother. The specificity of  works like Things Found In the Mouths of Babies, Alphabetical Shopping, and photographs of The Distance I Can Be From My Son tenderly comment on the minutiae of raising a child while asserting a sense of agency and subversion through her simple gestures and observations.

Kate Pocrass' Mundane Journey’s was a hotline from 2001-2009 that you could call and get instructions to visit easily overlooked, everyday details in public spaces. Pocrass' location specific and descriptive instructions heightened an experience of seeing seeking, transforming an ordinary event into a secret work of art.

I recently met the brilliant Molly Smith when she was in San Francisco for her opening at Romer Young Gallery. All of her works in the exhibition - which included sculpture and drawings -  were made on a cross-country road trip. She incorporated whatever her sensitive eye was drawn to along the long highway stretches and empty truck stops. Wood fragments that magically and only somewhat awkwardly nestled in one another; soft washy-colored textiles that defied the force of gravity - the artist’s hand felt absent and present all at once. I loved the sheer confidence of this project and was energized by her lucid aesthetic sensibility and transformations.

I am inspired by these artists because they make work with whatever is around them - objects found in a child’s mouth, a strange sign in a public space, a dirty t-shirt on the side of the road. While the materials may be modest, through slight alterations, they are transformed into works that are poignant, personal and quite powerful. The works inspire me to look closer and more softly at what surrounds me - in a way to understand myself better and embed the creative act in my daily routine.

Thanks for reading.

All content © Copyright 2021 by the estate of Susan O'Malley