About the Project
"What kind of art do you make?"
Surely this is one of the most dreaded questions artists have to field, and speaking for myself, I am confronted with it constantly. For a very long time I have struggled to situate my own work in some satisfying and self-contained clearing among the overgrowth of categories and sub-categories of contemporary art practices. Understandably many artists would dismiss the very effort to categorize their work as a colossal waste of time. But still that dreaded question keeps coming back at us. As well, I would argue that most artists, despite what they may claim, DO think about this and probably frame their artmaking according to one or more available categories on offer. Even more, they probably self-identify with and socially silo themselves into categorical tribes regardless of whether they are conscious of it or not. And so I would argue that I am better served by understanding more deeply how my art practice aligns (or doesn't) with the many art currents and "scenes" swirling around me. Who knows? Perhaps this very process might prove highly illuminating and productive of new potentialities in our work.
Especially challenging when responding to this nagging question are the many confusing labels we must turn to when trying to name our practices; the readily available art terms are notoriously slippery to say the least. And so for me, if I'm feeling lazy or rushed at the moment, I'll likely fast-track my response by inserting the word "abstraction" somewhere in there. But I know full well that, at best, this broad-brush term serves only to designate what my work is not—that is, not figurative, not naturalistic, and so on. And if I am feeling a bit more generous, I will plop in the word "geometric," which adds a little, but still largely misses the point.
Having thought about this for a long time, it seems that a better approach to this ever-vexing question might be found in saying not so much what my art is but rather what it does; or more crucially, what I intend it to do (which, when you think about it, is all I can ever fully claim).
Although it's foolish to lay down precise categorical demarcations with almost any artist's work, as there are likely many overlaps. Still it can be insightful to look for one or two key qualities that, over time and across many iterations, keep insisting in the work. And for a great deal of my artwork (and I believe for many others'), the surprising term that keeps insisting is "diagrammatic."
James Elkins refers to the diagram as the "forgotten third in the triad writing-image-diagram." As to what I mean by diagrammatic and how it applies to or influences my, or other artists' practices—those are the core questions that drive this project. I plan to approach these questions along multiple pathways, including the history of diagrams, various theoretical writings about diagrams, and more appropriate to the blog format, postings and interviews with other artists whose work at least seems to operate diagrammatically.
I make no claim at originality; I know that I am not the first person to link diagrams to artmaking, and I plan to draw from those before me who have done precisely that. Ultimately, I see my role as an aggregator of a broad range of artists and thinkers who, by telling or by showing, may shed further light on this special mode of visual thinking.
Finally, I want to say something about the intended scope of this project. Although I am keenly interested in all kinds of diagrams from all corners of the humanities and the sciences, for this project I will focus primarily on what I am calling the Expanded Diagram as it manifests in the arts. I will likely focus my attention on the visual arts, but I am aware that diagrammatic thinking can apply to all areas of the arts, and thus I hope to address those as well.