I work in the studio on Mondays. It is my day for art and I am available to no one. This is what I was thinking about on Monday as I worked on new work.

I returned to my childhood today. I wasn’t reminiscing or having sentimental memories of my past, it’s a past I’m not always happy to revisit. But my work in the studio today took me there unexpectedly.

I have several things going at once here, and strangely, they all are funneling my thoughts in one direction.

I worked on six small works on paper, a writing sample for a competition, an exhibition entry and another work – it may be sculptural, it may be painting, it may be conceptual, in fact, I’m not quite sure what it is and whether I face legal action if I exhibit it. It’s this work which has hit me forcefully today.

The six works on paper, as a group, are called ‘6 obliterations’. I found things I did not expect to find in these works. They actually are completely different than what I intended to make. They connect to my history, too, and have set my thoughts on this path back to my childhood.

The writing sample has a curious theme of crime and punishment (in relation to art). I chose as my subject a statement of contemplating my actions, my crime, against this last work which I cannot yet define. It involves a book written by someone else and actions perpetrated by me. It is these actions to this book which has struck me with such force.

As a child and I think for my whole childhood, I scribbled on anything and everything which came within my reach. Nothing was safe. I marked, broke or left trace on everything I knew. I once even used scotch tape to lift the gold leaf from my grandmother’s harp. That de-gilded patch remained in my view until the day I sold the harp to fund my move to Europe. Every time I saw it, my subconscious reminded me it was mine, I did it, I made that mark.

The actions and marks I make today on someone else’s book make me feel the force of those memories and I remember the strange feelings I had as a child creating my own world within someone else’s world. They were strange feelings of absolute abandon in acting on my thoughts, making my inner space visible; building a world that only I knew and understood. It was a sort of isolation, but it was me isolating and removing myself from the world I looked out on. I left that world to create my world.

Clearly, as an adult, one must move away from those kinds of fantasies in order to function. But the unexpected return of those feelings today as I work has left me with a profound sense of my history, my existence, my self. The weight of which I can probably never express.



In response to a discussion with David Minton on my post #7.

Let’s look at some definitions of self, identity and obliteration; we seem to be going in circles around the meaning of these words.

From Webster’s New World Dictionary:

self: 1. the identity, character, etc. of any person or thing 2. one’s own person as distinct from all others 3. one’s own welfare or interest

identity: 1. the state or fact of being the same 2.(a) the state or fact of being some specific person or thing; individuality (b) the state of being as described

obliterate: 1. to blot out; efface 2. to destroy

efface: 1. to rub out; erase 2. to make (oneself) inconspicuous

I understand there to be no distinction between identity and self, they are one and the same.

If you try to place self and identity in a hierarchy of intentionality, you could perhaps say self exerts intention and identity displays motivation, with the distinction being self and intention are less defined than identity and motivation. Identity and motivation are often specifically named. But I believe it is erroneous to make this distinction because what I intend is the genesis of my motivation. I think self and identity have come to appear different and distinct only because identity is often defined in concrete terms such as I am a parent, I am a teacher; whereas, the self often remains nebulous and undefined as some part of ourselves which guide and direct our being. Our self is our identity and our identity is our self.

This argument of the non-existence of self and that we are made top to bottom by social influence is not something I have studied in depth yet but I have encountered many references to it recently. I agree (as far as I understand the argument) that we are entirely made by social influence and the self has very little, if no self determination, we can make choices yes, but the way we come to make a choice is determined by all the social influences we have ever experienced in our lives. And I believe this supports my argument that the self is defined and obliterated by its context. The self is defined by the context in which it finds itself, and this context obliterates the self, not always as a complete annihilation, but often just as a diminishment.

The concept of the self as some directing, autonomous, pure part of our being has been challenged, and I think rightfully so. We, none of us, exist without reference to what is outside ourselves, so a view of the self as somehow untouched by the exterior we experience, yet in control of our being is illogical. I refer to the self because whatever is being debated about the existence of the self at the moment, we each of us exist in time and perceive of our existence in the world. So an exploration of self is still valid.

I am one of six billion, no one has exactly my DNA, but I share the same 99.9% of everyone else’s DNA. No one has had exactly my life experiences, but our individual experiences are similar enough that we are all able to understand one another’s experience, that is, as in contrast to understanding what it is like to be a cuttlefish. No one has experienced the exact things that I experience in moments of time, but we all experience the same synchronous moments of time. I am unique, but I have to admit, I find it hard to say what is unique about me.



I am making two postings in response to David Minton’s comment on my post #6. The first, post #7, addresses objectivity and subjectivity.

This is the second posting to address David’s question about my statement, ‘Therefore, it [the relationship of the body with outside forces] realizes the paradox that the self resides in context but is also obliterated by that same context.’

I will start my explanation by reiterating a paragraph further down in post 6: The self has a confident presence in my work but it is a presence which is tenuous, momentary. It is a presence which knows it only has a moment. The self in my reinterpretation holds its inner continuity, but sees the articulation of its presence as fleeting and so absolute relation to itself an impossibility.

When I say ‘the self resides in context’, I mean the self is defined by the context in which it finds itself. But this definition is limited if it is taken to be the end of the story, which I feel strongly that modernist views of the self have done. If the perspective of this definition of self is opened up and set in relation to other things, which most likely are unrelated, happening at the same time, the definition of self becomes diluted, diminished, obscured, unimportant.

Some examples: I am human. There are six billion humans on the planet. Which one am I and where is my place in terms of importance with the rest of those six billion?

A man has a career as a computer analyst and has been successful in his position for 35 years. His company makes changes in response to market conditions and the man is made redundant. Who is he now and what does he claim he does?

I am an American living in France. I know where I come from. I cannot convey the weight of my personal history to another who has no experience of the United States, the Mid-west, the state of Kentucky, of any other Americans, and what information they may have puts me in relation to things seen in the context of current events in which my country partakes, having nothing whatsoever to do with me. My only chance to present myself in this situation is during the moments I stand in front of my French neighbor and communicate in limited French.

My view of the self could perhaps be seen as defeatist, depressive, timorous even, but I don’t see it that way. I see the self as part of a larger whole and to look only at the self is narcissistic and self important. We all are in relation to other things, other people, time, and I feel, only in looking at this relationship will understanding be found. This relationship diminishes us yes, but it also is a more realistic view of who we are in the world.


The discussion we were having about resolving the desire to work intuitively and the desire to enter into artistic/stylistic debate (David Minton – Dead and Dying Flowers post #50, and my posts #4 & #5, in addition to comments on those posts) has taken a turn to question objectivity and subjectivity, which is perfectly natural and opens a mammoth tin of worms. But being the inquisitive minds we are we’re going to tackle it.

David comments: Jane, If, whilst nailing a message to a post in the company of another, I hit my thumb with the hammer, we can both see the hammer but only I can feel my pain. An objective hammer and subjective pain?

David, I think the hammer is in a state of objecthood, your feeling of the pain is phenomenological, the person with you is a witness to the event and the message on the post is a subjective communication by you to the world.

Grammatically speaking, you (the subject) feel the pain (object) caused by the hammer (indirect object), that is, in a sentence construction of this sort. All three of those elements can change position and their grammatical value changes as does the emphasis of the meaning of the sentence. I mention grammar here only because it seems philosophy has taken a turn into literature with the work of Jacques Derrida, which has a bearing on art.

If I look at the hammer and you look at the hammer and we agree it is a hammer that is an objective conclusion. However, it could easily be argued that we recognize the symbol of hammer and so understand the object in front of us as a hammer, in which case it is a subjective conclusion.

If you depict a hammer, a red thumb, a bent nail and a fallen message, it could be a subjective depiction of the inability to strike true thus causing undue harm and a failed attempt at communication.

If you see a hammer depicted with a caption reading ‘hammer’ and you have no reason to doubt the source where you see the depiction, it can be said to be an objective depiction. The trouble with that however, are there any sources which are beyond doubt? And is the giving of information (i.e. education) the beginning of conditioning?

I don’t actually believe in objectivity except as chance. And absolutely all of this is up for refutation and debate. This is my understanding of objectivity and subjectivity off the top of my head without delving into the study of any of these issues further – something which I think my reading is about to lead me into.


I often see mentioned the failure of Post-Modernism to connect with history. I pay attention to that. To be outside of history is to be lost, ungrounded.

In my own work I have striven to relate to history; place myself in dialog with it. And while, it can be exciting for me as I create, I won’t deny feeling unnerved when I compare my work to the contemporary market. I can see that my work looks different. I tell myself this is a good thing but it doesn’t relieve my fear.

My work clearly is dialoging with Abstract Expressionism, the gestural abstraction is unmistakable. The concept behind the work is where the debate changes. I use gesture to recall the body in time. This places the body in relation to outside forces such as chance and imperfection. This relationship explores the impossibility of the self to relate absolutely to itself. Therefore it realizes the paradox that the self resides in context but is also obliterated by that same context.

In my work the flattened plane and the ‘all-over’ composition is replaced by spatiality and isolated elements. Bold defiance is replaced with temporal insolidity. There is a feeling that at any moment if we look again, the whole scene will have shifted and changed. The forceful elements will have lost ground, be under threat, be consumed.

The self has a confident presence in my work but it is a presence which is tenuous, momentary. It is a presence which knows it only has a moment. The self in my reinterpretation holds its inner continuity, but sees the articulation of its presence as fleeting and so absolute relation to itself an impossibility.

I, for one, am ready to move on from Post-Modernism. How about a shift into ‘Temporalism’? It has a nice ring to it.