This past summer I took a 10-week design course at General Assembly, a tech bootcamp in New York City. Staring at a computer all day can be numbing, so everyday I went outside, crossed Fifth Avenue, bought a spicy lamb gyro from the nearest halal vendor (what my classmates liked to call “street meat”) and went and sat on the same open bench in the shade between 21st and 22nd Street. This is what I saw.
By nature, creativity is indulgent. It requires excess—extra time, extra effort, materials to burn. The resources don't need to be extravagant but they must be expendable. Embarking on a creative venture with a conservative mindset is like rationing sand at the beach. It’s counterproductive and unnecessary.
If you can’t be careless with the materials at your disposal, trade them in for some that matter less. Start painting on scrap wood—or on paper. Write in the wee hours of the morning or when you’re traveling and can ignore other demands on your time.
Your resources must feel worthless because you’re going to be wasting a lot of them. Spending listless hours in the studio. Forgetting to turn the mic on. Blowing up ceramics in the kiln. Accidentally deleting the best part.
These failures are not altogether bad. In dying, each lost piece creates the vision for a flawless outcome that lives on in your imagination. It teaches a testy balance between anxious care and disgusted carelessness.
Set out to regain what was lost, if you like, but don’t try too hard to retrace the steps of your last mistake. Each piece pulls toward its own destiny and comes with its own potential for success and failure. One frustrated dream can birth a whole family of promise.
Diptych, December 2015. Old color prints altered with saved vinyl lettering and stickers as I was preparing to move to Philadelphia.
For years I've been making long series of contiguous photos—not frames that have been stitched together to make panoramics, but individual images that relate visually to each other, called polyptychs. In art history, many altarpieces are triptychs, with three panels. Often the panels have a unifying visual element so that they make sense together, but they can also be complementary images that convey a new meaning when placed side by side. I aim for a series that tells a kind of visual story, where each image can also stand on its own. This is the first time I've been able to present them coherently, so I'm excited!
Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, 2009
Húsavík, Iceland, 2011
Chino, California 2008