I had a really great treat today. My dad has a membership at the San Diego Museum of Art, and he took me down there today to see the Alexander Calder jewelry exhibit. (He had actually already seen it but made a point to take me there because he knew I would like it. He’s awesome!)
What a wonderful collection! If you are into metalworking or jewelry or just plain like art, I highly recommend going to see it. Calder made such bold and expressive pieces using wire that was coiled or bent or squiggled and then hammered into its final shape. It was so inspiring to see the techniques that I have learned in my classes be applied in so many visually interesting ways.
One great thing I observed between all the pieces in the collection is that Calder’s loops and spirals were all slightly different from each other, even within the same piece. He didn’t hide places where he joined wire, he made them part of the piece. He was bold in design and created balance in his art, not just symmetry. I tend to struggle with wanting to make my art perfectly neat and orderly, no matter the medium, and I get frustrated when things don’t turn out as I expect.
I have met many novice artists who share this difficulty – wonderfully creative people with a lot of curiosity and a desire to learn, but who are overly critical about their own work, to the point of self-deprecation. It is very hard to let go of these perceived flaws! In the eyes of an outside observer, however, the variations inherent in the work are what lends the pieces individuality. My eye was first drawn to the overall design of each of Calder’s pieces, and on observing the details, I then noticed the little variations in each loop, in each rivet and coil, and reveled in the joy of the handmade.
I suppose that is how we grow as artists, recognizing that a lack of self-confidence can make us our own worst critics. In everything I create, there is always something good. If 5 or 20 or 50 years from now, my art is in a gallery somewhere inspiring young artists and giving them the confidence to create, it is the imperfections that make the art accessible. It is handmade and it is uniquely mine and it is human. And I am proud of that.