Finally, I reached the last task: Uneven Wrapping. When I initially read through the course notes I thought that this was really the pinnacle of Part 2. Unfortunately, I found myself in a really bad mood as I steered myself away from my thoughts about preserving memory and began to wrapping the watering can once more.
I had high hopes of finding a peaceful calm in the repetitive actions of winding, wrapping and weaving. I imagined this exercise would be therapeutic, I was thinking about Judith Scott’s work as warm and safe. Of building second skins that were protective like cocoons or womb-like shelters. This was not my experience.
It is hard for me to separate my feelings about ‘real life’ from my feelings about the wrapping. Maybe I projected too many of my own anxieties about ‘the day job’ onto the sample and on a different day, in a more positive frame of mind, I would have felt better about it. But, I hated it, as I wrapped I simply felt angry and very, very sad.
Usually when I start to working on a piece, thoughts of ‘real life’ dissolve and the questions asked by the work in front become the focus. Time loses meaning. I was really surprised when this didn’t happen. As I wrapped, miserable thoughts churned around, mimicking the process in front of me. It seemed like I was disguising the watering can in layers of misery. I had to stop.
Did Judith Scott feel angry when she wrapped? I hadn’t considered this before. Instead of being a comforting process about protection, were her actions about hiding and concealing? When I looked at her work again I saw giant knots of anxiety. I saw great tumours of discomfort caused by what the world had done to her.
Of course this is all conjecture, the meaning behind Scott’s work is unknown. In the introduction to the book “Bound and Unbound” Morris¹ suggests that:
“The fascinating reality is that Judith Scott’s biography is not apparent in her work. For the viewer, and for Scott herself, the works are solely about the objects…”
This seems a bit disingenuous to me, I appreciate that I viewed Scott’s work differently before I knew her story, that is not to say I judged it any different because of her abilities or difficulties. Once you know her background, can you separate it from her output? If her ‘background is not apparent in her work’ then is it my mood I am projecting onto the objects? Surely this applies to all artists work not just those labelled as Outsider?
In my opinion anybody, creating any art, is being autobiographical. Each comes to the point of creation with their own set of personal experiences, that dictate to some degree what they make. The difference with Outsider Art for me is motivation, not driven by fame or monetary recommence, what is the reason for working, if not self expression?
I digress slightly, but as I sat considering the watering can, my feelings and what to do next, I decide I had two options. I could either make a large, aggressive drawing (which suited how I felt but did not really reflect my subject matter) Or continue to wrap and instead of keeping my discomfort in check, allow some of the negative emotion to spill out.
I let go of my belief that wrapping should be meticulous and neat. I wrapped randomly, with aggression and as I did I began to feel a sense of peace. The slow and careful wrapping began to disappear beneath layers of a different nature. As I calmed I began intuitively adding to and taking away from this new layer and I began to enjoy myself. My wrapping, stitching and weaving sort of sped up until I reached the point when I intuitively knew I could stop.
The final product looks pretty and the idea became that the floral wrap is a second skin that reflects the potential of the watering can beneath. ~This is actually nonsense.~ This is me doing what Judith Scott couldn’t do, I am justifying the piece. I am giving it a story and a title ‘Flowering Can’ to deflect the truth. I will always remember the knot of negative emotions that lays beneath the decoration. It will probably always remind me of how I felt leading me back to the concept of cloth and thread having an uncanny knack of retaining memory…
¹ Scott, J. (2014) Bound and Unbound. Del Monico Books.