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The nature of obsession in art….

Can there be art without obsession?

And if there is obsession without art, is that when the trouble starts?

Being over here in the US has given me time to reflect upon this.

My own obsessions are dealt with in my work. Worries that might otherwise make me angry, aggressive, unreasonable, are dealt with productively, with a positive, aesthetic outcome… and ability to look at it afresh…

Without exception, the art I love shows levels of a fixation to match my own… with materials and subject matter. Even when I think I have branched out, in hindsight, I discover I have not. I have discovered this week that the obsession takes many forms. Katherine Gullo’s patterns cover every surface of her house and work… EVERY surface.

Mike Flaxman’s birdhouses another case in point. Based on shapes and styles of Russian architecture, I found they spoke to me somehow… like a bit of me could live in one. He had one that Kathy had painted… Dear God what I would give to own that… or give it a home near me for a while… I felt inadequate. I take a badly constructed, pre-made shed, slap some glue and pre-cut fabric strips on it… yeah ok. Take a thousand steps up, construct a birdhouse based on Russian architecture, intricate in craft and inherent balance of form and then paint it with beautiful delicate geometric pattern and flora and fauna. Shed? Pfft.

Debra Eck, who has unbelievably generously give eleven of us artists a home from home while we have been in the US, has her own set of rules for engagement with her materials. An eclectic collection of paper goods ranging from ephemera such as store carriers and tea-bag tags up to hand made papers and vellum make it into her work, each handled expertly and stitched with an obsession to rival mine, but into the most amazing books, with complicated embroidered bindings.


The gallery my work is in shows signs of it too. The Dykeman Young Gallery in Jamestown, is in itself a lovely building. Michael Dykeman presides over it with incredible attention to detail. There is a little walk through corridor/wardrobe lined with vintage shoes, handbags, hats and ties etc… beautifully arranged, expertly lit. It almost tempted me to buy some girl shoes… almost… each item for sale is given its place, and treated gently. He has treated my work in the gallery with equal care.


To be with a group of people who get why something has to be a particular way, is reassuring and refreshing. They may not understand MY rule, but they understand that it has to be so.

On an American Experience note, I have today seen a herd of deer, a groundhog and Niagara Falls. I have eaten an onion sliced into a sort of flower shape, the root part still intact, battered and deep fried… delicious, but containing about a fortnight’s calories I’m sure… and the best steak I’ve eaten for years.

And Buffalo wings? Oh yeah.