Thinking About Thinking: How You Catch Me

“I stopped by, but you were gone” Tami tells me. How could I not read on after such an enticing title? The headline directly addresses me, her random final-calling-cardreader. And while I know she doesn’t really mean me, I think she really means me. And because I am very important to myself, to me, her post is compelling to read.

It’s difficult to fully convey the significance of creating design with conceptual impact. When you are able to reach beyond my eyeballs and into my brain you hit a nerve that creates meaning, and I am always searching for meaning.

The efficacy of this particular headline in this particular context (that is, in the category of all Art 244 Process Logs written during fall semester 2014 at Agnes Scott College) is that it parallels the goal of the assignment. The project is meant to create an object that touches the receiver and reminds her of your presence, in (because of) your absence.

Much like abstraction, “concept” is difficult to teach. It’s as if we know it so well we can’t describe it. But it is the conceptual strength of a design coupled with formal excellence that is powerful. Without concept, the design is shallow, decorative, and dismissible. Without strong formal design, the idea falls flat. An artist must reach excellence in both aesthetics and idea to make meaningful expressive work.

Tami goes on to articulate how she integrates image and idea. Her research about the coded messages of calling cards (“folded top left corner meant the visitor came in person; unfolded meant a servant had come; folded bottom left corner signified farewell”, etc.) creates a foundation to begin her design. She says

“The calling cards pictured on the site were filled with flowers and lined with fringe.  Small, sweet sentiments printed not he front.  Little flaps to lift and reveal signatures (I found these most exciting).”

She uses the concepts that she finds exciting to inform how she wants to proceed in her design work:

“I spent… time trying to find a way to combine these two separate styles of calling card (lift-and-reveal and straight photograph). I started in with the idea of having my name reveal the image(s) rather then the image revealing my name.”

This is part of the point of doing research—figure out what interests you and follow that. If you can make a project relevant to your interests you get to do work that helps you discover yourself. An added benefit is that work important to you tends to be pretty interesting to others. If you are working on an authentic personal question, you will find an audience who is authentically interested in the answer.

Screen shot 2014-11-23 at 12.42.19 PMSimilarly, Alison designed her calling card based on a quote she read that resonates with how she sees herself.

“Into darkness there is always light, you just have to find the crack”. … correspond[s] to my personality since I’m always trying to find positive things in bad situations.”

She concretized this idea through creating a physical window in her calling card. By cutting a “crack” in the physical object, she accomplishes two tasks. She makes an interesting and unusual object worth picking up, and she draws on the viewer’s sense of curiosity. I can’t help but be curious about an object with an intentional hole cut into it. It’s not what I normally see! The idea of looking through and finding the light beyond the plane of the card is designed into the mechanics of the object. In picking up her card, the viewer enacts the concept. Alison has succeeded in creating a design that triggers my thinking. It’s a strong work with a direct zap to my brain. This stays with me when I put the card down. Good work has resonance.

Michele’s card works almost because it is more familiar. She plays on placing a more iconic image into a new context. The formal considerations in her design make pink ballet shoes strong and assertive rather than saccharine and sweet. (This is not a Hallmark card). The text works in a similar way “save a dance for me, next time I come to visit” relates the image to the act of a dance, but hits just the right tone to make me feel singled out and invited to join her.

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I am a firm believer that everyone has a birdcage

Bird Nightmare by Mickryon (detail)

Meaningful thinking and writing is good for everyone. Good writing, and meaningful thinking, like “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep” as John Keats expresses in this often quoted opening phrase from is poem Endymion. I find that passionate engagement in a project makes for an engaged experience in reading and viewing. Yehimi creates a work worth reading as she shares her personal interests in careful writing that expresses meaningful thinking:

When brainstorming for possible themes on which to focus this project I immediately knew I wanted it to be a political message. More specifically, I want my strange world image collage to make a statement on the amount of wasted talent that results due to denying undocumented students a higher education. The image above is an image that I always go back to when making new artwork for the symbolism I find in the bird cage. From my point of view, each metal bar of the birdcage represents something about an individual–perhaps the many identities that make you who you are and defines your struggles. I am a firm believer that everyone has a birdcage.”

20 pictures that inspire

Leonid Afremov

The point of the assignment “to go online and find 20 pictures that inspire us”is to promote a habit of conscious seeing. Bombarded by thousands of images each day creates a visual fatigue that makes us numb to them, disregarding and usually unconsciously ingesting their message and meaning. Everything visual has a story. Pictures, are often ” worth a thousand words”, as the old adage describes. Images are a forceful communication tool. This exercise is intended to begin to articulate in language what the images or visual situations are messaging. Command over this process becomes a powerful tool for “speaking” in a world of images. Meghan’s post describes (in words and pictures) her realization “that I like vivid colors, usually contrasting, or black and white (also contrasting). I also like the strange, especially if they include people.” Knowing what you “like” is useful, although it ultimately is not as important as knowing what’s going on visually. You may like red, for example, but it may not be appropriate to use in a specific task because of it’s symbolic or formal characteristics. If the task is to make a work recede, or to impart quietude, blue might be a better choice. The exercise of looking for what you like has the benefit of being pleasurable, and so hopefully has the inherent incentive of engaging you in the task! Meghan “realized that I like vivid colors, usually contrasting, or black and white (also contrasting). I also like the strange, especially if they include people.”