The artist is a translator of human experience, and one who tumbles headlong into life’s recalcitrant questions of meaning and purpose. To the extent that one engages in this way of life to that extent one is an artist and arguably everyone is always creating something. Erwin McManus expresses this well when he says “humans create futures.”
We often find ourselves on the borders of human experience, between events and people, mediating meaning and giving form to the relationships among things. The artist self-consciously codifies and preserves events, feelings, thoughts and imagery in a way that their products continue to shape culture through an expressive echo.
My preferred medium (2-D or otherwise) is pastel. Experiences are often fleeting and insights short lived. Sculpting for instance, has rarely afforded me the opportunity to solidify ideas that don’t linger long. Pastel though, gives an immediacy that lets me compile my visual experience in a short time while also allowing for a great deal of revision. Revision is the process that shapes me and how I see and it’s through this means that I am better able to see, record and examine a subject.
With any medium comes a certain bodily attunement. Because each medium provides different postures and ways of being and moving in the world, they all confer some benefit and unique perspective on the subject studied or source used. Participating in different expressive modes, from dance to printmaking to poetry, allows us to see and know in novel ways. So even the two-dimensional artist stands to gain from occasionally dabbling in other art forms. The disequilibrium of novelty breeds insight.
Possibly my most important role as artist is that of restoration. Artists have historically and continue to call our attention to suffering and pain in the world. In doing so the artist has to in some way enter in to the experience of the other and begin to understand the weight of that suffering. Every historical era has its artists who serve as record keepers and those who bring our attention to world events. In part, some of the Abstract Expressionists working after WWII embodied this role. The existential plight of so many of the post war years can be seen in the art of painters like Gorky, Kline and de Kooning. The frequent lack of referent in these works alludes to the moral uncertainties that attend times of war, and force us to ask what undergirds our actions and beliefs, what explains horrific events? These sorts of movements often allow the healing process to begin, by expressing realities in ways not accessible by other means such as newspaper stories or second hand reports of events. The artist has the great privilege and responsibility to grapple with current events and invite others to do the same.
Artists diagnose the cultural condition as well as their individual longings in a way that tends to develop in them a sensitivity to human needs. The work we produce has a salutary effect on our communities by unifying, teaching, convicting and providing fertile ground for reflection.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.