Blog: The Art In Ü

  • Newsletter 01: Letting Art Be

    Hello and Happy Friday. My name is Joan Cuenco and welcome to my newsletter on leading a creative life.

    I'll release a newsletter every other Friday with stories about my art practice, my colleagues' art practice, and inspiration from my heroes.

    All newsletters will be available on my website in the section titled "The Art in Ü". There, you can leave comments and discuss the newsletter with other readers.

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    So, let's get started on today's subject: Letting Art Be.

    A few days ago, I submitted my portfolio to a photo festival. Part of the application process requires an art statement. Here's something you may not know about me: I've been avoiding my art statement for years.

    Why? Because reading other people's art statements frequently makes me do this:

    If you haven't read a boring art statement, here is an example from a humor book by John Seed. It is a fictional art statement because
    I don't hate on people. I'm all about love.

    By Andy Warhol.

    Fictional art statement written by John Seed:

    "Still Life with Flowers represents a personal generative model and also a system of arborescent mutualism. The genetic contiguity of the various flowers establishes a familial grouping of synedoches that are both micro and macrocosmic. My goal is to assert and maintain a system of autochthonous hybridity."

    Did it make you do this?

    Did you finish reading it or did you jump to the picture of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer crying? If you've never read anything like that, you are lucky. Buy a lottery ticket today!

    Let's call this type of art statement an "Anti-Art Statement". It is against art. The thing about boring art writing is that it completely misses the whole point of why I make art.

    Now, I know some people disagree with me, and it is disheartening to come across this Anti-art angle in NYC -- for me, art is all about heart.

    But you know what? We agree to disagree. I'm happy to find my art heroes backing me up; I follow their lead. Agnes Martin has my back.

    Take it away Agnes...
    "All your conditioning has been directed toward intellectual living. This is useless in artwork...All other work made from ideas is not inspired and is not artwork...Artwork is responded to with happy emotions. Work about ideas is responded to with other ideas. There is so much written about art that it is mistaken for an intellectual pursuit."
    Agnes Martin in her essay "Beauty is the Mystery of Life"

    And some insight from Brancusi:
    "Intelligence helps us if we give it the brakes of love and soul. Nowadays everyone is intelligent. It is a bad thing. Intelligence is fictitious. Love is spiritual, it is the Divine...The soul is everything."  Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957)

    Art can communicate directly to you -- by being seen, by being heard, and by being felt.

    What do you think? Share your thoughts

    Thank you for reading,

  • How I Got Into Photography

    I remember using my mom's Polaroid OneStep in 1995. Even then, I was conscious of the cost of film, but it really was magic for under $2 per frame. The pictures are quite meaningful now that Polaroid isn't making film -- a reminder that it's important to make the work with the materials you have, rather than skimp and not make the art at all. 

    I took my first black & white photography class during my 3rd year in high school. My courseload at the time was pretty heavy, as I was bent on being accepted into MIT or Princeton and becoming an engineer or physicist. After college, I would live happily ever after, of course, as a rich engineer.

    A surprise came when I fell in love with making black and white prints. Lunch hour was spent in the darkroom, and I stayed after school to print. Sometimes, I went to school early just for the extra darkroom time.

    College was a marathon of study. I earned (and I mean e a r n e d)  a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Physics from UC Berkeley. A few misadventures at a college internship with an established consulting firm sent me packing for New York City -- my life as an artist could now proceed.