Cora Melcher

Final Project: Tarocchi

The creation of this tarot deck is a response to visiting Il Giardino Dei Tarocchi by Niki de Saint Phalle. Tarot cards work with a language of archetypal symbols, designed to represent the human experience. Personal space is necessary to engage fully with this work. The deck approaches recognizable symbols in an abstract manner, asking the questions:

Is it necessary for symbols to be (consciously) universal in order to communicate?

Can a symbol be translatable from one person’s visual language to another’s?

Reading response: Alfredo Jaar “On the Being of Being an Artist”

I see this reading as contrasting the previous one by Saltz a little bit. Jaar seems definitely takes a more serious approach to the discussion about what art is and what it can do. A part that really jumped out at me was a quoted poem by Anna Akhmatova: “So much to do today: kill a memory, kill pain, turn heart into a stone, and yet prepare to live again.” I really felt the intensity in this piece that Jaar is getting at. He sees art as something that we need to use to communicate with (answer) our reality, especially if the reality seems bleak and traumatic. There was also a running theme in this article about optimism (bad writers) vs. pessimism (people who don’t write) that I found really interesting. I was seeing this as a metaphor for the rest of what he was saying. For example, art should provide answers, but the only people who get around to making art are optimists who don’t necessarily do it “well,” but then with their misinterpretation of the negative reality, we find peace and something positive.

Reading response: Jerry Saltz  “What Art is and What Artists Do”

I find the Bruce Nauman quote really intriguing in this article. In part of it he writes, “Can you pick your style? It party picks you. There are certain things you decide, but certain things you don’t. In a way, art is working through you.” I have wondered about the importance of style over and over again and stressed about if an artist needs to necessarily have a signature style in order to be a “Real Artist.” I think this idea encompasses the issue of authorship and who really has ownership over ideas and practices. In my opinion, when it comes down to it, nobody has complete ownership over any idea at all. Even if two artists create a similar project based on the exact same concepts, their work will have a unique hand behind it and be situated in whatever social/political/economic web that they are involved in, which is inevitably different (because we all have different paths and relationships). There were moments in this writing that I didn’t quite understand upon first glance. For example, in the Nauman quote, he continues to say “If you’re not delusional, you can’t work all the time, and if you’re not working all the time, you won’t be an artist. Be delusional, but be your own harshest critic.” I’m not sure if I fully understand his use of the word delusional, but then Saltz wraps up this article by saying “Art is never as simple as you think it is.” So, by the end I realized that however I may interpret some of the more conceptual parts (like the use of the word delusional) is okay, because it is my own creative interpretation as an artist.

Mid-Term Project:  Story Stream

This project began as a meditation on stream of consciousness collage and painting work. I decided to let the themes of the work reveal themselves to me through time and the process. It went through a phase of being about our physical senses and how our experience is filtered through these senses that are constantly interacting and also filtered through the lense of our attention. As I continued to work, it became clearer to me that trying to derive a narrative out of the actions of creating was not working. In the end, this piece is about how we (all humans!) try to create linear narratives. As a response to our physical world, our mind generates associations based on memories and emotions, derived from the stories that we have created for ourselves and tell ourselves about our past. I decided to hang these pieces, make them double sided, and invite the viewers to walk between them and touch them to create movement and a shifting visual perspective. Having not all of the images visible at once represents our limited perspective on the world, even our own experiences (our attention). Some images are repeated or referenced in subtle or not subtle ways, in an attempt to prompt the viewer to try to create linear sense out of what they’re seeing. But when they can’t, they might feel the chaos, even discomfort in their craving for a comprehensible narrative where there isn’t one (or at least there isn’t one way of reading it). This piece is also situated right in the center of a creative/collaborative/messy work space, which includes collected and necessary things all over the walls and floor to create a dialogue between the real lived in/worked in atmosphere and the work itself.

Reading response: Report from Italy (by 

It definitely strikes me as unfortunate that young students in Italy today are not exposed to much contemporary art. Obviously there is importance in learning about and witnessing the ancient works in this country, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of exposure to contemporary art. The lack of resources to delve into the nuances of the contemporary art world in Italy is of course a hurdle for institutions. “The commitment to make contemporary art increasingly public and shared should be the focus of critical and curatorial activity, so as to truly make it a public asset.” I agree with this quote to an extent, but also I feel that the situation for artists to get their work at there for free (or low priced) in a lot of circumstances is not easy to navigate. Accessibility to art and supporting artists and makers financially is difficult to balance, so it is true it should fall to critics and curators to adjust their lense on more recent or contemporary work.
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Connecting Past and Present Booklet: I AM … HERE NOW
The first spread and last spread of my booklet create a frame for the rest of the pages. The first says ‘I AM’ and the last says ‘HERE NOW.’ These words are my favorite mental mantra for whenever I’m in the midst of big change, or just feeling disoriented/anxious in general. The pages between this mantra represent a stream of consciousness ( including memories, abstract reactions to spaces, a representation of an interior and exterior in Siena, words I have heard people say that struck me, etc.) All of these things can come to mind very quickly, even in one breath of I am here now. This booklet is also highly process oriented, I started with a lot of different ideas but eventually decided to just go with whatever reaction/memory was passing through me during the times I sat down to work on this book.

 

Reading response: Craft across Boundaries
“Someone, somewhere, made everything you own.” In our daily lives we usually do not acknowledge this simple idea. The reading talks about Aileen Orson Webb (founder of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts. She makes a really important point by highlighting that it is easy to look past this idea (quote above) in this age of technological reproducibility. With ease we can ‘carry’ knowledge from one place to another, not physically, but over the internet. It is an interesting idea for the hand of the maker to be more present in daily objects that we interact with, making the viewer/user “wonder about that person’s experience and the way it connects” to their own experiences. I think that, although craft is thought of often as being localized and specific, it could possibly speak to a wider range of people if it is presented in such a way that calls attention to itself, like Webb is suggesting.
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Reading response: “When Art Defines a Social System”
My main takeaway from reading When Art Defines a Social System, is that art and architecture should have a job to do. It should seek to influence some kind of social change or evolution for the better. I agree that art “of the real becomes an instrument of meditation between the individual and the territory.” I think this means that context between the person/groups of people experiencing the art and the art itself (in its certain space) needs to create some level of awareness in the viewer as to the reason of its existence. The reading talks a lot about the body’s relationship to space, which then relates to emotional experience, because emotion is based in the body’s responses. For example, in the work of Carlos Garaicoa, a ‘sense of belonging’ theme is extremely important. This theme brings together the context of the space, the viewer’s body and the viewer’s internal/emotional experience.

I also can’t help but touch upon the subject of memory and fragmented consciousness in this reading and in my own perception of what art can and should be. For example, Gursky’s photographs “allow the view to enter the image as if it were an environment,” but without needed to “pack all the reality possible into a single image.” To me, this means that we do not need to concretely define a space or a work to have it get its point across or to create change in the culture surrounding it. We simply need to grasp at the viewer’s emotions. So even highly conceptual/abstract work can create a strong sense of environment and be equally as effective.

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Blue of Distance reflection:
As I read The Blue of Distance, I found myself relating to the ideas in a really immediate way. Of course, everyone relates to the experience of longing, and distance, but there has been something of a similar theme (on the tip of my brain for some weeks now,) waiting to be articulated. I don’t quite have words for it yet, because it is something that I am in the process of learning, or have learned, one moment, and forgotten in the next. It is becoming clear to me now that this thing is not one that is learned once and for all, but rather, by the nature of the lesson, demands to be learned continuously. It is the idea that we are always ourselves (?). Possibly the biggest struggle in my conscious mind is the act of puzzling together how I might be able to “look across the distance without wanting to close it up,”(30) because time and time again, I reach a situation that I have idealized and romanticised for so long, but “something is always far away,”(32). The father I read in this chapter, the more I began the realize that it is less about the experiences of longing and distance, and more about self worth. This chapter could very well be interpreted as a commentary on the belief that humans are all separate beings with varying self-identified levels of ‘good enoughness.’ We elevate things that we do not have to such a degree that we are also putting ourselves down and believing that we are not whole as long as we are without the thing. We are always ourselves. We will never actually arrive at the blue horizon as long as we believe we are without it, and I suppose this is what I am beginning to learn (and unlearn and relearn.)
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Intro Unit Project: Tempo Zulu
My Tempo Zulu stone would not really belong to me. It would begin as a wet piece of cement in a hidden corner of a side street or small alleyway in Siena. Anyone to happen upon me and my undried cement chunk during the installation day would be invited to draw an image or words into it describing a secret they are keeping. After the cement dries it would be kept under a layer of stone that looks like all of the other ones around it; concealing it, except for small hinges on one of the sides. In the future, anyone can lift up the ‘normal’ looking stone to reveal the art/descriptions created by people. This ‘Tempo Zulu’ stone could mean many things to many people, especially due to the fact that it would be created by those passing by the spot, not by one single artist. My own interpretation, however, places emphasis on the ideas of chance and secrets. It is by chance (to a large extent) that the exact individuals involved in the project are involved. The words/images are accessible if you are looking for them, if you are observant enough to lift up the stone on its hinges, and curious enough to read or interpret your findings.
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Art – Craft reflection:
In my opinion, it is hard to define the terms “craft” and “art” without discussing culture, which of course is always changing. The judgements and definitions of these words are different from person to person, of course, and also between societies. Growing up in the US, with artists for parents, I have not only accepted the importance of art in my life, but have grown to crave it and romanticize it. In the western world, artists are praised and looked up to. ‘Artistic genius’ and ‘celebrity status’ are sought after by many, and those who achieve it have a certain aura, a cult following. For example, take the iconic Andy Warhol. He is not only famous for his pop art, but also for his eccentric personality and strange life philosophies. Essentially, in the western world, art is often about status and authorship; Who is creating art, and where do I fit into it and relate to it? How am I special? In contrast, an art professor I had at Mount Holyoke once told my class that in (her) Japanese culture, perfecting a craft is a more desirable path than being a ‘successful artist.’ She explained that this is because craft is not selfishly about the specific person who is creating it. Art from this perspective is not focused on the subjective experience of the artists or the representation of them as a being. Craft, from this perspective is looked at as keeping a tradition alive; raising that same tradition to a higher level. Personally, I am not quite sure where I stand in the discussion of defining boundaries between ‘craft’ and ‘art.’ I do, however, know that opinions on the two (depending on how they are defined) are highly influenced by cultural values that transcend ‘art’ and ‘craft’ completely.
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Intro Unit Project: Walk of Destiny
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Sinestra

There are clothes hanging to dry in the rain

Apparently laundry day is not to be interrupted or postponed
I am familiar enough with this path

To be able to guess where I’m going

This bothers me
Sinestra

I think of the girl who ran into the boy

And ran into the boy and ran into the boy
To continue hoping for the unknown

Means to accept that I have been here before

This bothers me
Sinestra

When I was little I’d lay on top of the radiator

That was when a boy lived across from my grandmother
I saw him last summer for the first time since then

And I heard my head say ‘impress him’

This bothers me
Destra

If it’s true that every time you speak, you learn about yourself

It may be true that every time we walk we learn about the world
I have never known balance to be stable

This doesn’t bother me
Destra

I used to think artists should produce an antidote to uncertainty

To create a space for solution

To provide a hand to hold safety
And while I am familiar with this path

I don’t know it

I am not certain of it
And I think instead, my job is to ask for more

And to listen

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For this assignment I wrote a poem based on some thoughts that came up as I was walking. The stream of consciousness writing approach is a reference to some forms of Buddhist walking meditation and walking as art, both mentioned in The Shape of a Walk. On page 268 Solnit writes “language is like a road, it cannot be perceived all at once, because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.” I included multiple fragments of stories I have heard and memories I often revisit, trying not to eliberare to the point of complete understanding. The process of writing this piece was highly influenced by what I know of philosopher and psychologist William James’s ideas on consciousness. He wrote “we have to be ready to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.” While I was walking, I allowed ideas to come to me in a non judgemental way and wrote them with the same feeling of impermanence. I find this state of mind to be a natural one in which to create and one that agrees with Solnit’s idea of art being an “unbounded investigation into the relationship between ideas, acts and the material world.”

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Cora Melcher, USA
Bio Statement:
My name is Cora Melcher. I am in my third year at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, studying studio art and psychology. I also love film theory and philosophy and love to learn about the ways in which all of these subjects interact. I recently have been interested in the complexities between a (seemingly) objective visual experience and the inevitability of a subjective interpretation of that experience based on thought and prior experiences. I have worked primarily with paint and collage in the past but I am interested now in experimenting with photography, film, or mixed media.