Two Sculptors Talk
Patricia Lyons Stroud and Katina Huston
Sgraffitto Spring 1996 vol 5 no1
I think in a sense that art has come about through a kind of free and easy ‘play’ – and work, of course you still have to keep working at it – but it’s more that you’re just playing and something starts to click into place and then you’re getting warmer. When the planning part of your mind starts to take over and says, oh that will look spectacular, oh and do a whole wall of these- I back away from that.
You can take objects and make them live up to the place they’re going to go- like filling up a whole wall- wan turn them into well-crafted and intellectually laden things that people recognize as what gets into magazines-you know how to do that. * I know how to do that. Not doing it is one of the great acts of trust.
s-When you made your crown out of Spanish moss, you were just with it, I’m not saying you were in a trance but it’s as if you were just doing it without knowing exactly how it was going to turn out. For m, I take a block of wood and cut it into a form and then turn it around the other way, not knowing what will happen. Si it is a kind of know knowing and knowing. Something can start out one way and become something else entirely.
h- Because the issue is not what it looks like, it’s not about appearances. The object just turns out to be the thing you were making. The object’s manifestation of the process and if you interfere with that by trying to push it in a particular direction, thinking “this is the one that’s going to get me- this is the one that’s going to get me what I want,” then the object becomes a kind of look alike thing.
*If you know it’s going to win for you, then you’ve seen it before.
s- instead of a real thing.
H- It’s been very strange lately with that crown. I’m always surprised by how the work comes out but another aspect is – I made that piece for a gallery show, and it turned out to be some much more humble that the other pieces there that it was a very strange experience. My impulse was to cover it up quick because it looked so unruly and unschooled and unsophisticated- to be honest, it was embarrassing.
s-That was what was so wonderful about that piece. It made itself and had a life of its own,
h-I think that’s also the hardest part., because then you’re so open to ridicule. When the work is ready, it says “We’re here, we’re ready!” It has so little to do with me. Even if you don’t believe in the product, you can believe in the doing, the process. And so you recognize, oh, yes. This is the thing that the process yielded.
s- I think the process is what carries me along and the information I get from it. This psychiatrist was talking about interpreting dreams and how did you know when the interpretation really came from the subconscious, or when were you just making it up. She said, if you’re not surprised by the answer, then you’re making it up. I tried to ask myself with the drawings and sculptures I’m making now, what are all these things? Just markings, I answered. No, I said, that’s the answer I keep giving, what’s another answer? I came up with “time and music.” And then I remembered something that’s been said by different people about my work- that it looked as if it could make music. That’s surprising.. So what keeps you at it?
h-I don’t even ask that question any more. Part of it is that I know that’s why I’m here.
I am here to do art. I used to be so fear-based, that if I was going to do anything good, it would have to be that. Once my mother sent me money so that I could have the time and peace of mind to make art. The check arrived and I didn’t sit down at the desk and make. So she wrote me this letter and that said “Sculptors sculpt“ like she had made an investment that didn’t yield. She didn’t like what she got for the money which was silence.
s- So you couldn’t work.
h- Or wouldn’t, because part of the process was not doing anything. So I read art history.
s- Then you were doing something.
h- I found out the Helen Frankenthaler doesn’t work six months out of the year because she can’t. She can have six incredibly productive months and six months starting at her toenails because that is what it takes. I had someone say to me at that time that all the great artist are prolific, I was trying to live up to that and to my mother. At the same time I began to recognize my own process. When I’m being productive, I am surprisingly prolific. Suddenly the room is full and I don’t know where it all came from. But the blankness is necessary to the process, even going out and exploring the world is necessary.
s-you have to have time to sow the seeds.
H-Have experiences. I used to think that if you did what you wanted to do, something horrible would happen like I’d sleep with everyone in Encino or gain 100 pounds
s- I thought that too
h-. I had to decide that it was really OK for me to spend all day making art, now I’m coming to the place that it’s OK to spend all day not making art, which is an even greater freedom.
s-There’s different ways to do it too. Art doesn’t always have to be this huge monstrous project, it can be quite small. It can be different materials, that’s the freedom right? I can use photography, I can use form. I can still use sculpture, big or small, or if I weren’t allowed to do that I’d find something else to do, I’d dance it, I’d sing it, I’d knit it. I’d do what I had to but I would find a way. I suppose art’s a way of speaking, it’s a hymn of praise.
h-You can do anything and there’s enormous freedom in that. All that matters is that you do it.