I’m going to miss painting this thing. Miss it because it reminds me that I am vulnerable, feeble, I am doing this because I have no context to make art but desperately want to so I am attempting to while I am stuck in these 300 days or rather stuck in a season of much instability. It reminds me of this journey that I am on and the things I have learned and unlearned and that from that I’ve built a kind of stability. I will miss it because it has become a source of comfort. When I am done with these 300 days, I have a slight fear of “what will come next?” I hope and planned and expected that answering that question would be easier somehow…but it might not be. I made a book chronicling the journey of this object in these 300 days. Looking through the book (and seeing that there even is a book from this project I began on such a whim), reading my words, seeing the pictures of where it has been, what it was before compared to what it is now and the discussions I have had about it with so many people…it still astounds me how far it has come. It was trivial, and nothing more, but it has been built into something more and grown into something beyond itself. Yet this chapter is ending, and the next one is about to begin. There is a “next.” There always is, but we rarely know what that is. Even the best intentions, preparations, and plans can falter and put us back at square one. I think we all can relate to this in some way. However, even in the planning whether it prospers or not, there is a purpose. I guess this is where hope comes in. Even if we can’t see the “next”, we can still somehow hope in it, hope for it, look and anticipate that there will be a “next” and whatever it is, it will be good and meaningful. I often find myself coming back to these words from scripture “…But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Acts 20:24-25
At some point I began to think about the 300th day and just how this process would end. I think as I was painting it one night I got the idea to exhibit it during the final days. Ha! What an idea, this trite little thing I thought meant nothing, now I want in an art exhibition?!? It’s interesting how desires change. But I didn’t think it would happen. Where would I exhibit it? Everything else I’ve applied to as far as art endeavors didn’t work out. Discouraged, but desperately longing to exhibit this project, and it had to be during its last days.
The project has moved from something I began on a whim to something quite integrated with my life, routine and simple, but meaningful and unexpected. It has surprised me how intriguing it is to those I share it with. What seemed like the most insignificant artwork I've done has become one of the most profound. I don’t recall how I found it, but Soho20 gallery's open call for their show Under Construction fit very well in the theme of the show and the show dates…so I applied. To my surprise I was accepted. Besides a few emails I sent to people, it was the only thing I applied to for this project.
On July 22, 2014 the project will move from my bathroom to the gallery and for the final ten days of the project I will be painting a layer on the cup and spoon everyday in this public gallery setting. The process will stay the same, the object will steadily grow as it has, but the discussion, those who are part of its story, and what experiences this object holds will shift, deepen, and further form what my life will look like after these 300 days.
Today, June 3rd is Day 242...I wrote this almost 4 months ago...still carries some weight
2/13/14 (Day 132)
As I was coating a layer last night, I felt the weight of this thing. It is getting heavy. I have to hold it tighter, employ slightly more muscle to handle the object, stretch my hand wider to hold it. From day one, it has slowly grown. It’s been the same object this whole time, but it’s actually not the same object. The initial object was like trite, petty, scanty. Like rubbish that is a feather, lightweight, hardly there, of little importance. When I recall what it looked like and felt like to hold it in the beginning, there is a huge gap between that object and this one. Its presence is so much more now. It can’t be tossed out now as an empty frozen yogurt cup and spoon should be… the over and over again process of it is like a lot of nothings becoming a real something. And the only reason it has transitioned is because of time and repetition…essentially what has been done to the object. It is no longer what it once was, and not by any effort of its own. None of this came about by no effort or mere happenstance. It’s like building or cultivating something, the choice to make something from nothing. That choice is key. Steady work, even work with no passion, mundane but faithful tasking amounts to something. It couldn't be foreseen, it just had to be done. It didn’t ask to be made. It simply is, and then an external force creates the idea to be made to the object.
image taken June 3rd, Day 242
Searching, waiting for the significance. Insignificant…and that is significant.
No more depth than a day. But it’s like life
a day is…breath, eat, sleep, work, talk, think, pass the hours, sit in this in between.
We have so many like this
Amounting but then left on hold
Invisible accumulation....wonder what this is good for
not yet the hereafter.
Two days ago was the 150th day.
I'm already halfway through.
I decided to make a video of the coating that day.
So I did.
Click image to view video.
In the dead of winter, I went to Florida with a friend for a few days. We planned the trip very last minute, but longed to go months before winter. All my California friends kept asking why we were going there, but all my New York friends just responded with longings of doing the same. Before I moved to New York, I hadn’t ever lived somewhere that saw bitter cold winters. After experiencing winters like these, a strong new desire was birthed in me to get my body to a place where I could be outside in minimal clothing. The desire felt necessary, essential, and made perfect sense. This trip completely satiated my desire. In my carry-on bag came the cup and spoon. It was coated everyday, reminding me of when I began this project, the time and life I’ve lived since then, and the unexpected places it has gone during this journey.
It’s been a while since I last wrote. Nevertheless, I have been thinking a lot about this project and what I could share in future entries. I’ve noticed several things, and have been keeping brief notes here and there. Here is one such note. I wrote this on the same date as my last entry, though I don’t recall it was that long ago, but I dated it:
12/15/13 Day 72
Thoughts on this thus far… So the layers are getting thicker. The coating is quite substantial now. The spoon is very fat, the weight of the whole thing is recognizably heavier. I realize as I’m painting now, that there is probably more paint than object anymore. The “object” is more now what I have done rather than any object I consider it to have started as. The layers applied have hardened in this shape defined by the initial core object, and after multiplying, their presence is greater than what was there initially.
So I have a confession to make. I haven’t done a layer every single day. I didn’t intend to let this happen, but it did. Back in October there was a morning I woke up and with a gasp realized I did not do a layer the day before. I skipped a day and there was no way to make it up, that day had passed. I was terribly disappointed in myself, but I got over it quickly. I knew that this was part of the challenge. I wasn’t about to scrap the whole thing because I failed once…actually twice, the exact same thing happened about a week later. When I first thought of the idea, I thought “can I really keep this up every single day for 300 days?!? That is a lot of repetition, remembering, and dedication. What if I get bored with the process? What if others who learn about it just see it as a ridiculous thing that isn’t challenging at all because the process takes all of but five minutes to complete and really in the end what do I have to show for but a cup with a lot of thick paint on it? Mistakes and failures are inevitable. I do them. Yes I am responsible and they are not good. However, it’s far easier to keep going when we have been perfect, but when we have setbacks or mess up, it takes more courage and persistence to figure out how to keep going. I decided to keep going with this because I realized that the challenge I gave myself was not just to see if I could do it, but about the journey itself and the days I missed, whatever I was doing that made me forget, and the fact that there will not be exactly 300 layers in the end is all part of the journey.
A few weekends ago I went to my aunt and uncle’s in New Jersey to get away from the city for a bit, experience a change of pace…in two words, much needed. I brought the cup and spoon with me of course. Packed up the object, accompanied by a clean paint brush, a sample container of paint, gloves, and new saran wrap.
My aunt said I could paint it in the kitchen, the central place I spent most of my time out there. She gave me a real estate catalog to put down on the kitchen table. I stumbled to find the words to explain exactly what is this artwork I am doing. “…it’s about this time in my life…” but it’s not just that…and of course all art is sort of about that. “…it is a marking of this segment or chapter in my life…these 300 days from start to finish…after that I will probably move back to California”…it seemed to translate somehow.
My cup and spoon reminded my aunt of something. She told me about an event that happens every year out there where they live. Everyone who participates is given a soup recipe, many people are given the same recipe to make. All the soup of the same kind are then brought together and mixed into one big soup. Then everyone lines up outside as a way of experiencing what many people do daily who have little or nothing to eat. Each person is served a bowl of soup to enjoy together. The soup is served in hand crafted bowls each made by a different artist of the community. Once the meal is finished, the bowls are cleaned and then returned back to the person who ate from that bowl for them to take home. A humbling experience, one so symbolic of community, and the nourishment and need of giving and receiving.
All of the tools and supplies that were once in my studio have been moved into the sort of "shed" attached to my apartment. It's a strange area, but I've made it work for keeping my things close-by rather than renting a storage unit. There is also the unkempt backyard that really only gets used for looking at out my windows and by the stray cats that roam out there....and now for some of my art making. To access the backyard, one has to go through my roomates' bathroom which has a door to the shed which has another door to the backyard. Odd, but it is what it is.
For the first few layers I started working outside. I would grab a can of paint, gloves, brush, and the cup from the shed and take it outside to put on the layer. I am making rules as I go, so as for the color, I decided to use up one color until I've run out of that paint and then I'll move on to a new color. So the first color I used was a pink, really it was a mixture of a small amount of white with a small amount of red I had. I have a lot of latex house paints leftover from my thesis installation done in January. Images can be viewed here http://melissabrowder.com/cakedimgs. The idea behind this current project partly stems from my thesis installation. Perhaps in a later entry I will go back and revisit what inspired this layering up of paint over objects.
Eventually the process moved inside. I'm not exactly sure how, but it did. I found myself just doing the layer in the shed. The shed is hardly a place to do any work. It's not unlike trying to work inside an airplane lavatory. However, I found small areas to set the cup down so it could dry before the next day.
Image taken day 18
Embarking on an artwork can be invigorating yet daunting. So many voices. It starts from within and an excitement begins to grow, but the pressure of inevitable failure, disappointment, harsh responses, and whatever else comes as a result of what the unknown holds, sits out there staring you in the face.
In the past five months I have become a MFA graduate, traveled abroad, visited close friends from decades ago, enjoyed celebrations with loved ones, and now find myself back in Brooklyn bravely attempting to go forth with making my "artist life". Wonderful things have happened, yet coming back here has been anything but what I hoped or planned for. I unexpectedly moved several times, first into storage, which ended up being unnecessary, then to a new apartment, which after a month was clearly a disaster, and then back into the apartment I had been living in the first place. Experiencing weeks of insomnia, buying furniture that I only used for a month, repeatedly getting sick, all in the midst of the trying to find a job in the throws of post-graduating life made me profoundly desperate to feel settled. A need for routine. A fear that home has left me. A longing for home like never before.
To say the least, my life has taken a shift, I've entered a new chapter, perhaps a whole new volume and I feel like already one hundred pages have been written, but perhaps I am only on page two. No longer do I have the luxury (of which I never considered it that until now) of a studio space or even of the sole focus of making art that being a MFA student allows. Yet more than ever I am seeing the need to make art. It is now when I am deprived of the space and time to make art that I see how much I need to make and create as much as I need to eat and sleep.
So it is from this place that I have begun a new project. One that relies on time and the passing of it in my life. For 300 days I am painting one layer of paint one time a day over an object. I began this on October 5th, 2013 and will end it July 31st, 2014. That time frame is exactly 300 days. I thought of this one night as I was sitting, thinking, late at night on the Pratt campus, wondering what I want my life to look like and feeling disappointed about what my present life is.
Present life: wanting to make art, but lack of space and resources strips me of any motivation. Moving moving moving, finally feeling settled in my old apartment again, but more issues arise with the owners that I am unnerved again. Will it ever just be calm and routine? I needed to challenge myself to make art in a regimented manner to make myself make the art I want to make but can't seem to get myself to. So I came up with this project. The night I came up with this project, I realized that my lease would be up in exactly 300 days starting the very next day. The cup and spoon were just the objects I had with me at the time...I had just finished some mediocre frozen yogurt. So here I am painting a layer, one a day....marking off the days and adding on the coats until I will move again and will enter that next chapter.