Where do artists stop and artworks begin?

By Erika Hirugami, MAAB | Founder & CEO at CuratorLove

 

Is the artwork an extension of the artist, or the artist an extension of the artwork?

Today, I was having a conversation with an artist, whose artwork immediately occupied the space between our faces as we conversed. The artwork, a truly exquisite yet delicate hanging installation, which he placed at eye level in the comfort of his own home. 

While he spoke the slight breeze in the room allowed the work to dance for me. I was entranced by the motion, its color, the experience overall,  I was even allowed to play with said artwork, and that single instance quickly became a lasting memory.  For a moment, however, it became difficult to focus on the artist, as the artwork commanded all my attention. Yet, as I glanced into his eyes the artwork ceased to exist, it disappeared between us, this interaction unsettled and shook my very core, to say the least. 

I often find myself witnessing artworks at galleries or museums, even during studio visits the works are somewhat removed. At museums, for instance, the works command respect, the museum curators carefully craft experiences in which people are not allowed to interact with artworks for the most part.

Living Sculpture by Marisa Merz | Hammer Museum 

Living Sculpture by Marisa Merz | Hammer Museum 

The aforementioned artist and I visited the Hammer museums a few days ago and quickly became fascinated by Marisa Merz' Living Sculpture magnificently displayed in the middle of a large gallery, sectioned off so people won't accidentally get lost in all its wonder. As Hans-Ulrich Obrist explained, Marisa's sculpture was a part of her everyday life, Merz did not construct this sculpture at her studio, this artwork was in fact on her kitchen table, in her living room (similar to my artist friend's work), it occupied her own living space. It was an intimate part of who she is. Thus removing this artwork from her private home and taking it to a  museum, however beautiful was several steps removed from how the artist conceived of this in the context of her daily life. As I witnessed the artwork in the ever expansive galleries at the Hammer Museum, I could not help but think that the only way to truly appreciate the work as it was intended, would be to visit Merz' at home myself; idea which I mentioned to my artist friend, who quickly reminded me of how limiting this possibility would be for the general populous. 

Marisa Merz | The Sky is a Great Space

Marisa Merz | The Sky is a Great Space

But I digress, how was a delightfully elegant, and graceful artwork unsettling? How was something so fragile capable of such reaction? The work in question has a Calderesque essence about it, it is playful and subtle yet clearly packs a punch. 

The very fact that the artwork challenged the artist for my attention, made me realize that they were one and the same in a certain way. In galleries, at museums and even in this oh so private setting, the artwork spoke for the artist. The artist, in turn, was speaking about the artwork. So in reality, my mind was trying like Picasso to acknowledge different sides of a single whole. Trying to achieve this without acknowledging that this was in fact what was happening caused the unsettlement. 

Visually speaking it is fairly easy to acknowledge where one ends and the other begins (more so with non-performance related artworks). Conceptually, however, the artist and the artwork are in fact intertwined, so they breathe a single existence, one unique reasoning; before an audience steps in that is, because then both transcend themselves and inhabit many realms simultaneously. 

Untitled artwork by a great artist, personally keep anonymous today. 

Untitled artwork by a great artist, personally keep anonymous today. 

It is my understanding that the powerful and harmonious aesthetic iteration which inspired this article is, in fact, the birth of a more elaborate artwork, so I will allow the artist to share that with the world on his own time. Yet maybe, just maybe, the artwork won't see the light of day further than the privacy of this artist's home, maybe it was created just to challenge me to delve into this very concept. 

Maybe the conceptual praxis of this artwork lies at deciphering my aesthetic understanding of what an artist truly is, or help me redefine those very parameters. Either way, I eagerly await the future of this artwork and am fairly certain that the artist's aesthetic practice will continue to challenge me for days to come.