“It was 1995. I was in my junior year at art school, embedded in the ceramic and sculpture departments. At the time I was working with a wide variety of rocks from a river that ran through campus, and setting up a 'field' of rock sculptures in a small area in between the main building and the ceramics building. These sculptures stood no taller than three to four feet high and in any given moment there were between twelve and fifteen of them in a grid pattern. I had signed up for a critique with visiting artist Anthony Caro. He did enjoy what I was doing, and we had a nice conversation. Then he looked around at where I was and suggested that I could use larger rocks and more of the lawn. Just as we were done, and he was walking away, he said, 'Stop playing croquet on a football field.' At the time I really didn’t understand what he was trying to convey, and what’s worse I didn’t appreciate it because of that.
Flash forward a decade. After taking a ten-week personal development course, I realized I was out of integrity with myself and not happy in the life I was living. So I resigned from my teaching job at a magnet school and applied to the studio resident program at the art school. I knew I had to get back into doing what I loved. I started working again making pots and firing wood kilns, etc. but my work was going nowhere. It was stagnant. So I started making what my professors called “pot sized sculpture.” I had been told not to use the wheel any longer. I had to make work in a whole new way and I had no idea what this was. Thinking about this statement from Anthony Caro, as my new world was unfolding, was eating away at me. It took ten years, but I finally got it.
I got that I was living life in a small way. I wasn’t taking any chances, not in my life or in my art. I was playing a really safe game.
It was then that I decided to remove the training wheels. I started making a whole new body of work - a body of work that has me living my dream, today, in graduate school. Though it took another seven years to get here, I’m now playing that game of croquet, and on the field that it was intended for.
I have that statement – 'Stop playing croquet on a football field' - on my studio door. I read it every single day, and have even put it up on the board in the classroom where I teach on occasion.”
Aaron Flynn is a sculptor and grad student at University of North Texas. His ceramic work can be seen HERE.
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