Thursday, February 11, 2010

What’s in a Name?

Well, hello there, world.

I recently decided to kick my artistic pursuits up a notch, and as part of this effort am wading into the internet arena with a blog about my art. My goal is to use this space to share my artistic process, sources of inspiration, works in progress, and any other idea that strikes my fancy. In short, I hope it will be a window into the way I perceive the world through my art. So, welcome!

In thinking about ways to formalize my artistic pursuits, I decided to name it. I named it Millstone Artworks. There were a few reasons I didn’t want to name it after myself, as many artists do. One reason, the most important reason, was that I wanted it to be inclusive of all my artistic interests and various media both present and future, and I wanted it to capture my collaborations with other artists, such as my current collaboration with my husband Brian making Gyotaku fish prints. Sort of an umbrella to capture all that I am interested in now and all that I may pursue in the future. I also wanted a name that would imply some meaning, both to me personally and to the outside world. So what does the name Millstone Artworks mean to me?

The “Millstone” part of the name is a direct reference to an amazing millstone lodged in a waterfall that flows behind our house. It presumably functioned in one of the mills that historically were situated at the falls. To me, the millstone represents several important ideas. The first is a connection to this place. To date, I have lived in this town for most of my life, and so “place” is an important part of who I am, and not surprisingly, a large influence on my work. In some cases, this place is my art – in that the natural materials I gather and manipulate (wool from my sister’s sheep and fiber from other local farms, fish caught in local streams and ponds) are my media.

Another idea the millstone conveys to me is a connection to the river. My professional life as a scientist, thus far, has revolved around rivers. River ecosystems speak to my soul, and I am drawn to artistic themes that convey an intersection between science and art, especially when it involves water. When I doodle, most often I am drawing fish, aquatic creatures, stones and rivers in cross section… rivers are where I always start, but not always where I end up.

Millstones are circular, and circles have important meaning. To me, circles imply cycles, patterns, and processes, and when I attempt to bridge my scientific background with my art, it is often through this avenue. I also like to explore various scales of life in my work, from the microscopic up through the macroscopic, and patterns that repeat at these different scales. The millstone is an example of this: the radiating rays from the hole in the center of the stone serve a utilitarian purpose for grinding, but are also remarkably similar to the arrangement seeds in the center of a sunflower or pinecone, patterns of clouds in a hurricane, and the arms of a galaxy spiraling through the universe.

Lastly, I like the word “artworks” because to me it has a connotation of a process. For example, a “wool works” is where fiber is processed; a “waterworks” is a system for cleaning and delivering water. “Works” has a utilitarian aspect to it, and although not all of my creations serve a purpose other than creative expression, I am drawn to art that has a functional purpose (like felted rugs, garments, etc.). My “artworks” is the pathway between my mind, hands, and media. Because for me, the satisfaction I derive from my art is as much about the creative process as it is the outcome. I take great pride in my ability to start with an unrefined natural material, manipulate it, often through many time consuming and labor intensive steps, and result in a product that contains personal expression, purpose, and visual interest.

So, what’s in a name? Yes, my art by any other name would still be my art, but now you have an idea of what’s in it for me.

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