"Art school. 1993. I'm taking a class with a visiting artist named Michael Singer, a mild-mannered, thoughtful - and highly acclaimed - sculptor who would say things like, 'You don't have to move to New York after you graduate. You can make your art - and make it well - from anywhere.' The class was staring at a project I'd put up for critique. It was a wall piece with fabric wrapped around the stretcher bars, and various smaller bits of fabric stitched on top. At the time my work was very sociopolitical in nature, so I'm sure it had some point of outrage anchoring the subject matter. Probably I considered it a 'quilt painting,' though I really can't remember the details. What I do remember is Michael staring at the work for a long while then simply getting up and turning it over, exposing all the frayed fabric ends and scores of stringy bits dangling off the back.
Then he looked at me and said, 'This. This is what you were trying to say.'
In that moment, I fully understood the true meaning of materials. My piece was not about whatever literal thing I was attempting to crudely convey with color and fabric. What Michael taught me in that moment was how to get beneath the message and into the soul of a work of art. What I was trying to say had everything to do with connection, the stitching together of disparate parts, and there was no better way to convey that than to turn the painting over.
I think of this when I get stuck in my work, writing, fine art or otherwise. And, when I feel I'm not quite getting it right, I imagine turning the piece over in my mind to see its skeleton, and to find out what truly wants to be revealed."