Saturday, January 10, 2009


"But mistakes are what I like about the process; there is no way to fix it except through new choices." -Nikki McClure (artist)

Yes! I love this quote. A mistake is only a mistake if you contextualize it as such. It can be an opportunity, a source of inspiration, a revelation, or just a simple fact.

How many times have I watched people flummoxed by a simple mistake? The artist angrily starting over because her drawing does not look like the image in her head, the student crumpling up the essay because a sentence does not work, the actor starting an entire monologue over because of one skipped word. And let's not forget those that will do anything to keep mistakes at bay; never starting something at which they might fail or keeping the process completely hidden from view, using one journal for brainstorming and another for the final product. And that is really what this is about: a culture that only values slick and polished products as opposed to the process. Gone are the days of visible labor. 

Perhaps that is the charm of Nikki McClure's work. Her images represent complete moments but still offer the viewer a point of entry. They illicit a visceral response without being overly sentimental. The harsh lines and stark colors could feel very impersonal if it wasn't for the delicate nature of her medium, paper cutting. Each line is labored over, precise, yet imperfect. 

Recently I went to a exhibition of children's book art at the Society of Illustrators and was struck by how lifeless the digital art looked hanging alongside the various paintings, collages, and drawings.  The colors in the digital art were vibrant and the characters engaging, and had I seen them first on the pages of a picture book I probably would have thought nothing of their origin, but in direct comparison with art made by hand, they appeared dull. The painter who has to layer pigment to achieve the desired color leaves a slight trace of that effort in even the most perfectly blended inch of canvas.  The brushstrokes, no matter how smooth, bear witness to the fact that a human hand was at work. 

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