October 3, 2012

New Potato Prints (I am a Thief, or maybe a Borrower)

Green and Yellow Lines, ink on digital print paper, 13 x 11 in.

Sometimes when I do new prints or textiles, I have my artistic antecedents vividly in mind. Richard Tuttle  has long been a favorite artist of mine, whose work has inspired me; for instance see this blog post on a textile I did in his honor. Before beginning this session of potato prints, I'd seen some prints of his that used small line-like shapes (similar to Edges below) and they got me thinking of using printed lines. They are actually more like elongated rectangles than lines, but lines is how I think of them. 

Hourglass, ink on Gifu green tea medium paper, 20 1/4 x 12 in.

The interesting thing about the potato lines that I discovered while putting them into the ink was that they are flexible.

Downward Diptych, ink on Akatosashi paper, two panels each 19 1/2 x 4 1/4 in. 

Lines are not fixed; they can curve this way and that.

Linked Diamonds, ink on Gifu green tea medium paper, 21 1/2 x 13 in.

They can add rhythm to a composition...

Scattered Circles with Three Lines, ink on Masa dosa paper, 20 x 15 in. 

or variation and emphasis. I've posted these new pieces in the order in which I feel that they are successful, from most to least. With Scattered Circles above the Tuttle suite Edges, you can see why I might be thinking of borrowing or theft, even though I wasn't conscious of these particular works last week. I found them at Brooke Alexander Gallery while doing research for this post.

Richard Tuttle, Edges, 1999; suite of 13 color aquatint and etchings a la poupee, 12 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.

Richard Tuttle, Galisteo Paintings; suite of 7 woodcuts with handcoloring, 12 x 16 in. 

I think most of us are familiar with the supposed Picasso quote "good artists borrow, great artists steal". It turns out he never said that according to research done by Nancy Prager at her blog Protect/and/Leverage. It was T.S. Eliot, also was thought to have said the same as Picasso using poets, wrote a more nuanced view of artistic borrowing:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has not cohesion. 
I don't know if I'm borrowing or stealing, imitating or defacing. I do know that I love the emotional quality of small Tuttle works and would hope I can achieve something similar yet my own. Do you have an artist whose work you steal? do you feel you've welded your "theft into a whole of feeling which is unique"?


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, R. It's really interesting to think about all our influences, where they've brought us.