Searching for Truth by Joanna Powell, NCECA Journal, 2015, Volume 36

Searching for Truth by Joanna Powell
“If a piece gets too located, too specific, it’s too much like the facts. I would rather something [be] dreamed or remembered…a sensation of something coming into focus. Feelings have more layers and fewer facts.” –Judy Pfaff
Being a human is a strange thing. A thing I wonder about. I think about how we are all made of stardust. There are living star and supernova remnants inside all of us. The iron in our blood, oxygen in our lungs, and the calcium in our bones originated in a star. I often look at people that I have known for a long while and all of the sudden they feel like strangers. It’s sort of interesting but also frightening at the same time. I don’t really know what to make of it except get to know them again.
The process by which I go about making things is nonlinear. I make and make, and things gradually begin to make sense and come into focus. It’s like taking a long walk to go see something, you pick up things along the way and they influence your final experience of whatever it is you’ve gone to see.  I stay open and curious about the objects that are taking shape asking them what they want and need.
The objects I create are colloquialisms of my own making. I believe an object can anchor the values of a culture acting as an artifact of its time. When working, I often drift off into my own thoughts thinking about places I’d like to go or silly things that make no real sense. I am thinking of titles all the time. If I hear something good I’ll write it down. The work often times subconsciously emerges out of a title. My work is evolving into more of a narrative. They are very short stories. For example, in Pineapple Goes to Versailles, I was thinking about a pineapple going home to Versailles to be with other pineapples. After the piece was made, a friend told me about when a pineapple was removed from the table, the dinner was over. I thought this was a funny ritual and did a little research to see what this was all about and found that they were used as a symbol of welcome. In the Caribbean, Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of generosity and hospitality. In the end, I never found an answer to the dinner ritual but I did find out I just really want to make fruit.  I am searching to answer questions and find some essence of truth, but mostly I hope to keep on wondering about things and find more questions. 
I made a series entitled Fruit cups, inspired by a teacup I found at an antique mall. It was pink with an iridescent luster covering with the outside adorned with grapes and berries. I loved the silliness of this object. I went on an investigation of my own remaking this object.  I made a whole lot of them, making them until I couldn’t take it anymore and found out that’s where the good stuff happens, through repetition things began to blur and morph, a banana became a blob and a vine became a bulbous line with circles on it.  All the fruits and vines began to abstract and flatten out becoming something else.
I am influenced by shallow space and how colors relate to one another. Flattening out 3-dimensional spaces helps me understand a thing better. I just know what I want to begin with and go from there and let one part of the composition inform the others. Quick immediate responses are what I am interested in.  I like the idea of things being uncomfortable and things not being neat. “For me beauty is a struggle, a stretching of what is comfortable aesthetically.”[1] I admire sculptor and painter, Richard Tuttle in that he has involved himself specifically in color that has structure. I am interested in this interaction of surface and form. Instructions are imbedded in the forms so that they can ultimately tell me what they want when I finish them. I try not to think too much and give attention to the moment where I can surrender to intuition. For me, the color in my work is just the way it has to be, there is nothing else.  I am building skeletons to put color on.
I feel that craft based disciplines have the opportunity to redefine themselves in the twenty first century because there is more freedom to move in between media.  I go between paper and clay to work out ideas. The paintings and objects have become married into installations. I use installation in an effort to see how I can re-contextualize function. In A Simple Complicated Truth I was trying to flatten out three-dimensional objects in to a two-dimensional space. I painted a line where the floor meets the wall higher than normal hoping to tilt the space and flatten out the composition. The objects in the composition are odd and specific and clearly belong to one person. Being a superstitious person I think about the power that objects hold. I will avoid owning things if I feel like they have been somewhere where they sucked up bad juju. I filled this wacky interior with objects that could act as talismans for the owner, formally arranging the objects as a still life to tell a story ultimately just about painting.
 I will continue my journey as an artist in this life. I sometimes think of myself as a reporter, gathering facts and telling my story.  Gregory Crewdson said it best, “Every artist has one central story to tell. The struggle is to tell and retell that story over and over again in visual form and try to challenge that story but at the core the story remains the same.”
[1] Jessica Stockholder

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