The Ebenezer Stone

The Ebenezer Stone

The Ebenezer Stone

Did Charles Dickens have a deeper meaning in mind when he named his iconic character “Ebenezer” Scrooge?  Its a topic that had never occurred to me until I heard the literal translation of the name, Ebenezer, which is “Stone of Help.”

It was the name given to a stone that was erected after a battle to humble and remind the victors that the help they received was supernatural. It was not by their own hand that they were victorious over a particularly brutal enemy who had waged war on them for years. It was by a power much greater than their own that supplied the vital help that resulted in the final victory. This stone, the Ebenezer, will forever be in this spot as a reminder. We all have our battles and we can all have our own Ebenezer stones. This is mine. It is alabaster from a Colorado quarry.

In working this stone, I preferred using hand tools instead of power tools because of the tactile nature of alabaster.  Many people make beautiful sculptures of alabaster into a variety of wonderful things.  For me, the stone has its own beauty.  I use hammer, chisel, rasp and sandpaper so I can see and feel more closely what the stone is becoming.  The natural color is obscured until the tools chip away the sharp edges and smooth the roughness.  The only power tool was the drill used to make the center hole to show the color goes through the heart of the stone.

As the work on the stone proceeds, so does the battle of the day.  After the battle, the beauty underneath is revealed.  But it is not my hand that made the beauty.  It was there along.  The stone is that reminder.  For all battles, there is help.  What comes after the battle can be something beautiful.

 

Here is how the revelation progressed:

 

 

Channeling

The position of the artist is humble.  He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian (from Artpromotivate)Screen shot 2013-10-15 at 10.45.29 AM

What makes an artist create? For some it is the process of art- making. Others are obsessed with some particular subject, model or location.  some just want to make a living.  But does that really explain what makes a painter, paint or a sculptor, sculpt?  There are lots of postulations on the subject.

Artist Charles Spratt has several different ideas.  He says, “It must be for the love of it—it can’t be for the money.”  Spratt is likely right on that point.  He goes on to discuss the pleasure of creating and developing new ideas.  The satisfaction of selling work is also a good reason many artists continue working, according to Spratt.

In the Painted Generations blog, author Barbara Hartsook gives three reasons why painters paint or writers write.  Her first reason is, “to lose oneself in play and discovery.”  Artists get lost in the process of creating and by the fascination of experimenting with the materials.  Secondly, Hartsook states, “To reconnect with oneself.”  And lastly, she says, “To express oneself and tell stories.”  What this author has laid out is likely very true with a number of artists, may be even the majority of artists.  We play, we connect, and we tell stories.

The LaMantia Gallery wrote on the subject of why artists continue to paint the same subject repeatedly.  The writer gives three reasons: “market expediency, pursuit of perfection and experimentation.”  Artists staying on the same subject because it sells might be a very good reason to continue with a particular subject.  The other two reasons suggest that it is something the artist is compelled to do whether in search of perfection or for the fun of experimentation.

All three writers give good reasons why artists paint.  And all are right.  “For the love of it.,”  is important.  To lose, reconnect, and express oneself is part of the process, too.  Making a living is vital for most artists, as is the pursuit of perfection.  But the long and short of it, no matter what reasons you may give, is, simply, artists create because they must.  Inside every painter is a little Voice that says, “Paint!”  And writer, “Write!”  Sculptor, “Sculpt!” While all other reasons are true, that little Voice is the only one that matters.

Ambiguity

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Andy Warhol 
 (from Artpromotivate)Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 11.58.29 AM

 

Do artists want an “anything goes” Art World where anyone can call anything art and put it up for display?  Does that forward the cause of Art?  While at dinner with several friends this topic came up.   One friend is astounded by an art piece she viewed at an art museum in Toronto titled, “The Black Bathroom.”  My friends all thought it hilariously funny that someone would call this art.  It seems possible that a certain elitist attitude has opened the Art World up to ridicule by this “anything goes” mentality.

Alicia Eler of Hyper Allergic, linked from Arts Journal visual arts section, has a wonderful article titled “At ArtPrize, What the F*** is art?”  She spent time at the Grand Rapids, Michigan annual art fest known as ArtPrize and makes the observation that at this art show anybody can display anything and nothing is turned away.  The major difference here is the judging.  Anyone can judge.  Visitors who do not normally patronize elitist art galleries can get in on the judging.  These every day people judges are not in on the “cryptic language,” as Eler calls it, of the art elite.  The judging will be released this week end and we will see what “the people” have judged as art.

From the descriptions of some of the art in ArtPrize, I can hear the comments of viewers not privy to the “cryptic language,” but does this further the cause of art or leave it up to more ridicule?  From the local to the national, art exhibitions have taken on the “anything goes” attitude and ridicule is becoming more vocal.  Another friend recently described a local large outdoor sculpture as “that Gumby thing.”  For me, I prefer the artist’s work that is less ambiguous.  If I am focused on trying to figure out the meaning of an artwork, I have lost the beauty of the brushstroke, the form, the use of color, or any of the indications of the skill of the artist and to me, that’s what art is all about.  But maybe that’s just me!