"Am I really going to talk about the purpose(s) of art?" by Kim Shuck, June 2010 Artist-in-Residence

One guest during my residency mentioned that he liked the larger canvas of a vest better than, say, a small pouch. I think I smiled and nodded at the time. It was towards the end and my desire to take up each and every teachable moment had waned somewhat. I've slept some now so: I don't make my work for entirely decorative reasons.

Glass beads are sexy, smoked hide has a compelling texture and smell, decorative traditions from Poland, the indigenous Western Hemisphere, cartooning, various parts of Asia but probably the Central Asian Steppes primarily, the vast histories of Africa and the British isles all come into play in the way I see the artifacts I make. The artifact isn't the art for me. I talk story. Sometimes I use words, sometimes bits of glass, sometimes I weave it and sometimes it's constructed from metal. It's the story that's important. When I'm working in beads on hide, the stories are generally personal to the intended owner. On one recent piece a single blue bead, seemingly out of place on the neck of a dove was the most important bit of the 'art' of it. It meant something very important to the woman who commissioned the piece. The dove was important too, but the ooo was in the blue bead. My brother came by during the residency, somewhere there are pics of his shoes and hair slide. There are buffalo wandering the City of SF on those pieces. There is the intended giggle of unexpected critters on city streets, ok yes. There is a very me gesture in that the things that have lights do glow in the dark (I love glowing beads these days...). There is also a complicated and lovingly chosen story that unfolds from the heel of the right shoe to the heal of the left shoe with a detour to the hair. That story is what the piece is about. The decorative details are just me showing off.

If you go to the beadwork section on my website there are pieces that are shown unfinished, there are pieces that are shown entire and there are pieces that are never shown there at all. This calculation is about how personal the story is to the end owner. You will never, for example, see the whole piece that has the catfish on it... that story isn't mine to share. Very little can be said about this function of art that doesn't sound terribly spiritual and quite high flown. I'm going to use a dominant culture reference to explain so that this isn't dismissed as Ndn superstition. Joseph Campbell said that if we want to change the world we need to change the stories (not an exact quote but close). My work is intended to reinforce the stories that get it right and to nudge the stories I want to have change. To get back to where we started this blog: the size of the canvas is pretty much immaterial to me from an artmaking perspective. I bead big and small, I write large and small poems... you get it I'm sure. Size doesn't matter if the one blue bead is in the right place. I'm trying to change the world. How arrogant is that?