Monday, August 1, 2011
The Impermanence of Art
Of course, some artists celebrate art’s very impermanence. Ice sculptures, sand paintings, performance art are all meant to last the moment and no more. The most glorious recent example of artists creating a planned disappearance was the installation of The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in New York’s Central Park. It lasted 15 days and then was gone.
Some artists sadly create a different kind of impermanence. My favorite Jasper Johns painting, The Diver, is made of a combination of materials, some unknown. How does a museum conserve and preserve the unknown? Then there’s a Joan Brown painting whose paint is so thick that it remains wet inside so that the image will start to slide down if left too long in a vertical position. This is the sort of impermanence that archival concerns are designed to prevent.
Artists (even those who try for the long-lasting) also like to save money. That is why I opted for extremely cheap painting panels when attending Carolyn Anderson’s workshop. I was sure I wouldn’t like anything I painted. I even persuaded my friend to do the same. And then when one of Carolyn’s first lessons was to use quality materials, I squirmed. Later when I actually liked some of my work, I did more than squirm; I was sad.
The two paintings above are from the workshop. They are not the ones I especially liked; they are on especially cheap supports; one even has wall-protectors stuck on its corners. (Do not use this method to transport wet paintings!)
I think I’ve learned my lesson. Art, of course, doesn’t last forever, nothing does. However, I will do my best to make mine last as long as possible by using better materials.