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Artist Statement – Andrew Jendrzejewski
for Oakland City College, September, 2012
I began the summer thinking that I would make new sculpture for this show at the Michael Dunn Gallery. The summer abruptly changed, though, and my spouse and I found ourselves moving to another studio. Though I would have preferred to show my most recent work, this was not going to be possible. Instead, as I brought older work out of a storage space we rented, I rediscovered some of my older work. It was something akin to a Last Judgement. Some of the work appeared better, some worse, than I had remembered.
Many artists go through this as they look back at their work. I rediscovered new threads I had not noticed before. So, I decided that the Oakland City show should be a kind of retrospective, presenting a gradual, if irregular, transition from free standing sculpture, to tableaux, to relief and assemblage, reflecting my process of reevaluating the evolution of my art. Almost all of the sculpture was created over many years while on an intensive teaching schedule, with very brief concentrations of work, once or twice each year, where I would make five to fifteen pieces in a couple of weeks. It was difficult to hold an idea from year to year given all the events and influences that occurred between working periods. It required discipline in thinking and attempting to stay visually alert even if I was not actively producing during periods of teaching and administration as a department chair for 27 years. As my career progressed my concentration improved.
This show, then, represents extracts from a much larger group of works, some given away, some sold, some lent some stored and others destroyed over the course of those years and beyond. It represents many different ideas and perspectives that affected my art making over that time. The decline and loss of my parents, and summers caregiving, resulted in the two large stand-alone welded steel sculptures. Summers spent visiting my parents, who lived in Wyoming and Arizona, resulted in the colorful painted reliefs, some of which represent western scenes from memory. In other such paintings I tried to make the Indiana landscape feel as dynamic, interesting and beautiful as the western landscapes that I prefer. I learned that I could; it’s all in what you choose to open up to, what you allow yourself or, sometimes, force yourself, to notice!
That is the basis of many of my assemblage pieces: allowing myself to notice visual characteristics and the formal relationships between objects that create meanings beyond the original sense of either object. A CO2 canister is juxtaposed with a sprue, which is the passageway in a mold through which bronze flows to enter a mold cavity. In this case, at the end of the sprue there is a tiny sculpture, a tiny real frog cast in bronze, that I found dried up in my office. Normally the sprue is cut off the sculpture. I chose to leave it on, when by chance I noticed it sitting next to the canister. They seemed at home with each other. Form wise, I thought of them as a kind of metamorphosis, an imagined transformation, that can speak as a kind of observation of life. It is no longer just a sprue with a frog on it. It is no longer just a CO2 canister. It is something more than those original objects, a metaphor. No conclusions here, just observations!
Various other themes are represented, from personal memories of my family at specific moments of my life to social protests, particularly relating to our human failure of waging wars and injustice. I also played with cosmic questions, that reflect my marvel at the scientific world and the monumentality of the Old Testament, especially Genesis.
The variety of materials and techniques is as nontraditional, as my outlook on things. As an artist, I remain alert to both fresh ways of seeing things and to the use of unconventional materials and materials with which I am not fully comfortable. I have used hammered metal, assemblage, carved and painted wood reliefs, bronze castings painted and patinated, fired-clay using raku, sagger-fired and wood-fired ware, as well as painted bisque ware. In the past, I had worked with snow-fences, branch trimmings and rocks to create temporary public sculpture, showing works in Forest Park, St Louis, various college campuses, Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky. All these works are destroyed for lack of space to store them.
My works, then, are explorations. I explore visual and conceptual media and materials. I state no conclusions. I just search for another way to see and consider nature, life and humanity. I have always hoped to be a pioneer, and sometimes I fool myself, thinking I am one, but the history of art is fraught with a rich and endless record of daring explorations and super human accomplishments; I dare not make claims, but I will keep working as long as I can.
I’m having a time figuring out how to make separate static pages!
Saw the film Deadman last night. It’s about an accountant, named William Blake, who is mistakenly sought after for what looks like a double murder. As he flees, with a bullet wound near his heart, an Indian tries to save him, and recognizing the name, William Blake, mistakes him for the poet and artist by the same name.
I didn’t know how I felt about the film, at first. It is purposely slow, but with a powerful masculine portrayal of the 19th century wild West, but without the usual stereotypes or commercialized cowboy images. Frankly, the film brought me back to my sense of the godlessness and the develish brutality of man on a hellish earth that I experienced in Vietnam. Was there any hope in this world? My wife and I looked up the film on the Internet and found that the film was well researched regarding the fur trade industry and, especially, the character of the Indian, whose name is Nobody. In the end, Blake is launched on a small boat, not across Dante’s River Styx, but on the Pacific ocean where his soul might return back to its poetic and spiritual origins, rather than continuing to “speak with a gun”. Perhaps a hopeful sign until the last of three bounty hunters finally kills Blake and the Indian, as the Indian kills him. Hope? Maybe looking into Blake more deeply. Maybe the soul transcends it all, as the boat continues to drift.
The character’s names were often symbolic, and their were many references to Blakes poetry surprisingly recited to the “outlaw” by the Indian, suggesting to me a possible rare confluence between Western poetry and Native American spiritual concepts. I found that the play is regarded as an excellent example of postmodernism, with many references to at least Twentieth Century and Twentyfirst Century film artists, poets and musicians by director Jim Jarvis and with its minimal plot and emphasis on character. A concept that I have often heard as an artist is eloquently and usefully repeated with the quote below by Jarmusch, found in many places on the Internet, like Wikipedia. Reading it felt like he punched the refresh button on my browser:
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’ ”
che uno staccato nello paesaggio e cielo!
as we started our cars to leave the parking lot, the scene struck me with
its vastness and its repetitive qualities, which in its finite form suggested the infinite te-te-te-te…
in your lengthy fuss
aligning your cameras
you two had ignored us
not recognizing our powers
thinking you knew better
to look beyond for hours
for trolls, leprechauns or elves to fetter
only to find ones not so fine
at a Norwegian store?
in Nashville? Waiting in line?
we wore no tights
nor pointed slippers, ick!
we don’t like fights
nor live under bridges
with those ugly mud skippers, sick!
you searched and searched
to no avail
we were right in front of you
how could you fail?
to see us, your own magic beings
over the roof’s slant
on the ridge of the park’s
water treatment plant