Via con dios, Carnaval and Transmigration

Via con dios, Carnaval and Transmigration

When I first began making art it was really something I did for myself… I had relatively expensive taste in primitive art and decided that it would just be more economical to make my own than to spend several fortunes on the Central African work that I was obsessed with at the time. It didn’t really appeal to me to make outright forgeries, so instead, I put my own slant on the work and before I knew it I had a substantial body of work that was doing some interesting new things. The bulk of my earliest stuff was based on Nkisi Nkondi sculptures, (1, 2, 3) nail fetishes found primarily in the Congo. Rather than working in a strictly 3D approach, I made many which were free-standing or wall-hanging panels, incorporating the nails into collaged or painted images.

Eventually there were too many of them to house, and really, too many to consider the making of them a hobby or an aside. I decided to pursue the practice of visual art as my main focus. I moved to Chicago and started showing the work. At that point, I had to make a hard decision: Would all of the work be for sale? Or just the pieces I had created for that purpose? I forced myself to be very hard-nosed about it, knowing that if I allowed myself to reserve some of the work for myself, I would probably hang on to most of it.

So everything was for sale, regardless of dear it was to me. After all, generally the newest work is what an artist is most excited by, and there was always enough work in stock to be able to live with a pretty nice rotating collection. I kept to that practice for the first five years or so, at which point I was making and selling enough work that it seemed a good idea to set aside some of the more important pieces for my own collection. There are some pieces that I sold in the early days which I really miss and kind of wish I still owned, and there are others that, generally, I would not even consider selling at this point. Especially given how much my work has changed and the fact that I will probably not be making any more of the mixed media work which was my initial focus.

But last night I sold my two favorite pieces from the early collection. They now belong to a very good friend, JoAnn Olsen. I feel pretty good about it, because I know that she’ll give them a loving home and that I’ll be able to visit them whenever I get a chance to see JoAnn. She’s been wanting to buy Carnaval (center photo and detail on right) for several years now, but held off because her husband Howie was a bit spooked by the piece. While visiting together on this trip to Chicago, she decided to go ahead and get the work anyway, perhaps for her office. I mentioned that Carnaval has a sister, Transmigration, and that she should consider getting both so that they could remain together. It worked out, and so the two pieces have a new home. I’m actually a little relieved to know that their welfare is in someone else’s hands now, especially someone who has such a deep grasp of what the work speaks of. JoAnn is an amazing artist in her own right, mostly given to making Cornell style boxes but also quite accomplished in mosaic, copper work and most likely any medium she tries her hand at.

Via con dios, Carnaval and Transmigration. I’ll see you on my next trip to town.


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