Constantin Brancusi, Golden Bird, 1919 (Brancusi is the sculptor as well as the photographer)  

Three Balls in the Air


I always say, when we make art we juggle three balls in the air.

Medium: are we fully exploring the ways in which our chosen medium can be used? For example, with oil and acrylic paints, we have options of transparent areas and opaque, areas, of thick applications and thin applications, rough and smooth etc. There are so many media available to us. In my mind it should look like we are having a love affair with our medium of choice.

Composition: are all of the elements, the lines, shapes, forms ,sizes, textures, etc., of our work really supporting the idea? Hans Hoffman used to speak to “visual tension.” According to him the life force of a work came from opposites; large areas against small areas (think the space between the fingers of G-d giving Adam life on the Sistine Chapel, the small space between the large bodies is the life force), textured areas against smooth, etc.

Content: Personally I am a narrative painter. The story drives the image. But honestly my works must be paintings first, stories second. I am not a writer. Content is transformed by the particulars of the medium and the composition. Not all content is appropriate for any medium. The sculptor Constantin Brancusi was frustrated that his bird sculptures did not fly, so he experimented with photography to create the effect that he was looking for.

Sometimes the medium and content are one in the same. Historically artists have made work about the act of making work. or have made work about the materials which they used.

Often if we can juggle two balls, the work will be successful. but not why try for three?

—Marjorie Masel
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