A Mistake, A Miscalculation, The Precipice of Ruin Becomes An Opportunity
September 04, 2018
Life as an artist constantly presents missteps, hurdles, and obstacles to creating and presenting your best work. During fabrication, there could even be a mistake or miscalculation leading you to the precipice of ruining entirely your work in progress. When this happens, I know that the situation is an opportunity for improvement.
This summer, it happened again. I had planned to loan an older piece to an exhibition that had been on loan to my parents for years.
The first hiccup came to light when my mother let me know that she really didn't want to part with her favorite piece. I could not disappoint her and take it away on loan for an entire year to an exhibition. So, I opted to fast forward as a "force of nature" into making a new artwork in the same dimensions as the 18-year-old original, only better.
On any new piece, figuring out how to make it is always the slowest and hardest part. But I had done this piece before, and now had 18 years more experience. All that it required was an intensive 6-week long marathon to get it done in time!!!!!!!!!!!!
An additional obstacle was that I would have to assemble all the parts while away from my studio to be at my parent's house. Like a crazy person, I fabricated new panels, cut slots in the panels and grass blades (as many as I expected to need) while in my shop at home. Then, I shipped the blades of grass in advance. I could not take any risks of taking a 15-pound box of metal grass blades through airport security. Each blade of grass was as sharp as a razor blade.
At my parents' house, I sat on the floor for up to eight hours a day (if I was lucky to work eight hours). Determination and dedication without rushing. Careful choices to pick each blade of grass.
The assembly marathon continued on our family beach vacation...every single day until this was done. Each blade of grass was inserted one at a time. Nearing completion, another hiccup came to light -- I realized that in my rush at home in my studio, I had cut a lesser number of slots in the 2nd panel. Yikes! It wouldn't look as dense. Another hiccup. I decided to adapt by inserting two blades of grass in each slot (except for the edge.)
It worked! This impromptu decision is invisible. Thank goodness.
Speaking of the edge, I considered this the most important part as it was the most visible.
The selection for each blade of grass was very important, especially at the edges.
Here is the super good news. Right from the very beginning, I could tell that the new piece was going to be better than the older work. A super encouraging sign for all this crazy effort witnessed by my family, day after day.
It is one thing to work hard in your studio where no one sees how much time and sweat goes into each piece. Quite another when everyone has to witness the difficult process, cut fingers, and choices to sit inside instead of going to the beach.
There are always unforeseen difficulties magnified by not being in my own studio. In this case, after completing the first of two panels, I realized that I hadn't pre-cut enough blades of grass. I had to cut more by hand and custom fit them to the slots. Because I was in such a rush, and not working at home, these were variables that were not planned.
Keeping the blades of grass and little shards and splinters of steel under control was important. This led to converting a corner of the bedroom into a makeshift studio space.
Do I need to tell you that I reached my goal? The density of the blades of grass was super intense -- at least four times the quantity of my original in the series.
You can see this finished artwork yourself. A Yard of Grass II is in an exhibition in New York City opening this week.
TERRA in FERMA - Exhibition on climate change and pollution.
Dr. Bernard Heller Museum (formerly Hebrew Union College Museum), Hebrew Union College
One West Fourth Street
September 6, 2018- July 2019
Opening 5:30 p.m on Thursday, September 6, 2018.
I.D. is required for entry into the museum.
Admission is free.
A Yard of Grass II Harriete Estel Berman © 2018
8" height x 36" width x 6" wide
(Photographed on the kitchen table with a leaf from the table for a matching background. Necessity really is the mother of invention.)