sometimes art is an image, sometimes it is a conversation, always it is an experience. in the case of the current show at plug i found my way to the experience through a conversation. It was with one of the exhibiting artists, sonya blesofsky, and it helped me both see and situate the work.
to anyone who has been around the art scene in kansas city for more than a couple of years, sonya’s piece, an installation in the window at plug, is going to look familiar—maybe even disconcertingly so. fact is there are both formal and procedural similarities to the work tammi kennedy was exhibiting ten years ago. (has it really been that long?)
this does not disqualify sonya’s work as worthy of consideration. to make the art in “artwork” about who got there first, is to confuse the world of making with the world of selling. We must guard against such conflations.
i also think we should guard against taking the word of artists on their work at face value. artists have a way of talking about whatever interests them at the moment which usually, in my experience, obfuscates rather than clarifys (of which i am also guilty). be that as it may, it was through an exchange with sonya that I began to really look at the work.
early in the conversation sonya remarked how her process involves a lot of research before she begins fabrication—at which point she produced a photograph on her phone of a jumble of furniture in a storefront window, the product of a catastrophic flood in the west bottoms. this was the first bit of information to encourage a reinspection of the furniture-like shapes that comprise her piece. in this circumstance, the visual context conveyed by a bit of information, proved decisive as the motivation for a careful inspection.
later in the conversation she remarked, insisted really, that in making the work, she endeavored to remain as ignorant of engineering as possible. ?warning bells? why this contradiction? why insist knowledge in one domain is advantageous while knowledge in another is undesirable? it smells to me of a peculiarly american strain of anti-intellectualism where intuition is posited as a kind of direct knowing, unsullied by the hard work required to actually arrive at knowledge through information. more to the point it ignores the ways that tutored intuitions are thicker than untutored intuitions.
sadly, our conversation was interrupted. happily, sonya has agreed to continue our exchange in public on the plug blog. so, whataboutit sonya, in what circumstance is ignorance a virtue?