The artist statement – a short written statement that helps the artist express themselves and explain their interests and viewpoints (such as mine http://vanduynwoodwork.com/about/). My first experiences with the “statement” came more as a requirement for juried shows, galleries, and exhibit submissions. So from the beginning it was treated more as an attachment to a professional artists resume. I entered into the art world via the trades/makers route rather than by formal art education. So even from the beginning I have been more focused on what I was making rather than an underlying philosophy. For me personally, in the beginning, I didn’t think so much about what my sculpture meant or what it expressed, much less be able to put that into words effectively.
For a long time I made objects and vessels because I thought they were interesting and there was a lot of intention into making the best quality item that I could at that moment. It seemed a matter of instinct that I knew something I made was good. I was making objects that I knew where interesting, but as I began to sell my work (particularly the larger items) I wondered more about the why. Specifically, I wondered what other people saw in my work that made them want to purchase it, especially when the price was significant. What did they see in my sculpture? Was it that same things that I saw? Ok then.. what do I see in my work? Why are the things that I make interesting?
For some time now, I have wondered about that latter question, because I haven’t been able to put what I felt into words very well. My interests are predominately in making hollow vessels with thin even walls, simple smooth shapes, and a focus on the natural character and tones of the wood. I prefer little to no embellishment other than what occurs naturally. Understanding the why is easier when looking at thin walls and simple shapes. The even thinness and deriving a proportional, simple shape to me suggest that there is a direct link to development of greater skill as a wood turner. That however, I do not think is all that unique to me. Many people who set out at a profession often do so wanting to become very skilled at what they do, and I am no different.
What then is this longing to understand the why; as making objects to become more skilled as a wood turner has not seemed to be the answer. I believe that I have come to understand that my interests and expression come out of the naturalist in me. It took me a long time to realize that visually there is a lot more a person gets to experience when looking at wooden objects that have a great deal of depth. Most people’s experience into what a tree looks like on the inside is more of a two-dimensional view. The vast majority of trees are cut in slices (i.e. boards or veneer) around an inch thick or less; only the length and width have anything to show. So part of my expression is that I create out of a desire to show depth. I think of it as a photo that has been cropped very small and the context of the larger image gets lost. Often that context in wood is what gets graded as inferior or is cut out altogether. Interestingly, I have learned that a lot of the figure that most people are drawn to are often found near defects or areas of shifting grain direction.
This ultimately is why I make the objects that I do. I want to reveal the varied natural beauty of creation, specifically in trees. Working from reclaimed wood has a greater degree of depth to work from and allows me to create objects from species that are local and regional. What most of us see in wood is only a small glimpse of what is really there. This is also why I prefer simple shapes and no embellishment – to put more focus on the things that I had nothing to do to create. The same is true in using natural finishes; additionally any coloration has to be the result of natural interactions like spalting and fungal staining. Lastly, I think part of the why is just my personality, in that I find it more fun to be the revealer of created beauty, rather than the originator of that beauty.