“Response: Art and the Art Criticism” I SPACE GALLERY (April–May, 2009)
I want to tell your story, and I’m going to tell it my way. After our first meeting, where you spill your guts and I take notes, I’ll go home and think about all the weird stuff you told me and then I’ll use words that satisfy me to describe it. You’ll have opened up to me—a stranger, really—about something intimate, and then I’ll decide that the public should know about it. You’ll feel a little betrayed and a little regret, and you’ll make a mental note to be more guarded next time. Me, I’ll have acquired your knowledge and shelve it like a finished book. Sometime, while thinking about something else, my eyes will absently wander and rest on your shelved book, and I’ll think about you in a casual, parenthetical way.
I’ve previously written a critical piece on Carol Jackson’s art, but the chapter doesn’t feel closed; the book remains on my nightstand. There are still so many metaphors I want to use. The writing process is tactile—there’s a second tongue up in my skull and it slowly gropes my blistering thoughts until they’re fully known and familiar. This is why I respond so well to Carol’s sculptures, which are composed mostly of tooled leather and words, such textural ingredients.
Getting to know a Carol Jackson sculpture is a bit like past-life recognition. Face to face, we already know each other in a crumpled, distant way. We exchange guarded pleasantries, cautious not to get too involved again. But presently the air between us solidifies, perforated by a connective channel. We each dock on either side of this hose, this cavity through space, and materials are exchanged. It drops an ancient dust granule, perhaps the flesh flake of a forgotten lover, someplace dark inside of me. It’s magical; no, it’s uncomfortable, and I have to get it out.
Turning inward, I hunt for the buried germ, down past the foregut, the midgut, the hindgut, and find the mote spinning smoothly on a bed of damp raw dermis, working itself into a pearl. Pinched with forefinger and thumb I hold the pearl up to the light. It births a fly, which floats away.
This is the writing process. I also know about the art-making process because Carol told me about it. She’s all-too familiar with the sour smell of boiled cow’s hide, and can testify to how it burns the hands on contact, but it must be handled if it’s to be shaped, which it must be. She cuts and embosses the bovine rind, sometimes for long, tedious and hand-numbing hours. These are the difficulties that ensue, the commitments that must be endured, the time that must be focused, the postponement of other things, the head-down discipline, the celebration of the fear of death, the snug shape of oblivion, the unwitting entrance of an eyewitness (me), the self-actualization through something deceased and renewed (hers), the shot in the dark, and the mutual agreement. In this order, art will be made.