Thursday, February 14, 2013


I've loved these since I first saw them: Kate Clark's Ceremony on display at CSU gallery as part of Animatopoeia: A Most Peculiar (Post Modern) Bestiary, an exhibit curated by Art History major Omid Tavakoli (here for the artist's website and here for the gallery's).   Other people kept telling me they found these creatures creepy, but of course one of the things I love about sculpture in general is its creepiness.  And I didn't find these creepy at all, I thought they were so - Nice.  Gentle.  Kind.  Maybe it's the tilts of their heads, all off a bit to the side, as if in sympathy with their observers. Maybe its their skinny little legs, and hooves like pointed toes, that make them seem so delicate and their stances so precarious.

Like this guy, I got up close to peer into their faces and try - but never succeed - in meeting their gazes.  Maybe that's what others read as creepiness, the way the creatures seem to draw you in to look, but then refuse to engage with you directly.  Again, that didn't seem creepy to me.   Instead it seemed, again - Gentle.  Shy.  Sincere, in the way I've used that word in that past here.

I've wanted to write about them, but haven't gotten around to it until now, because this is a crazy semester (hello endless curriculum paperwork).   And because I didn't feel like I had much more to say about them that what I've already said about sculpture in general in the posts I've linked to here.  Only that the combination of the human and the animal in these, and in Clark's work in general, pushes the creepy/sincere combination of proximity and distance that is basic to sculpture, for me at least, in a slightly different direction.  These are close to me in their human faces and their awkward stances even as they are distant both in their animal bodies and in their status as sculptures. 

But in that combination of proximity and distance I also see some basic truths about human relationships: for other people are both as close and as distant as these sculptures, as animals and as sculptures, are to me.  And then I read this, in Barthes A Lover's Discourse, which I picked up at Powell's over Christmas and have been reading before bed:
I am caught in this contradiction: on the one hand, I believe I know the other better than anyone and triumphantly assert my knowledge...and on the other hand, I am often struck by the obvious fact that the other is impenetrable, intractable, not to be found.  I cannot open up the other, trace back the other's origins, solve the riddle...Then all that is left for me to do is to reverse my ignorance into truth.  It is not true that the more you love, the better you understand; all that the action of love obtains from me is merely this wisdom: that the other is not to be known; his opacity is not the screen around a secret, but, instead, a kind of evidence in which the game of reality and appearance is done away with...Or again, instead of trying to define the other...I turn to myself; "What do I want, wanting to know you?" What would happen if I decided to define you as a force and not a person?  And if I were to situate myself as another force confronting yours?  This would happen: my other would be defined solely by the suffering or pleasure he affords me.
And so I say again that I love these sculptures.  But not in a loose, sloppy, gushy way.  In a very precise, structural way - as Barthes is writing about love as a structure or a series of structures.   This would be the structure of the last and of many of my relationships.  I have a thing for difficult, even impossible, people.   And maybe that is similar to my thing for sculptures.