02 June 2009
we lost a good artist this week. david ireland passed. CCA's website has a nice obituary.
above is mr. ireland's house - 500 capp street - it became an art piece in itself - a container showcasing not only objects that could be considered artworks, but a life. a life that had become a piece of art as well. he worked on this house continually for years - stripping it down - adding to it - over and over. this is a concept that i think is actually pretty mainstream now in the artworld. the idea of life as art - especially in a performative nature. but i think for mr. ireland it was natural and not so premeditated. ultimately i look at the photos of that house and think it's gorgeous in it's use and decay.
you may ask why i am choosing to even talk about mr. ireland - i mean there are a lot of artists that die and i don't say anything. well... i actually got the chance to work with and for him for a day.
prior to his oakland museum retrospective i got a call. my friend happened to be the chief installer for the museum. mr. ireland was going to re-create a piece and he needed hundreds of concrete balls made. would i want to spend a day making them?
i was between jobs - just out of grad school - it was summer... a fan of mr. ireland's work of course i resoundingly said YES.
there were a bunch of us gathered in a courtyard of a studio building. it was a nice and sunny day. there were wheelbarrows where concrete could be mixed for us to use. flowers were blooming. we were shown how to make the balls. and then we went to work. we stood around the table laughing, rolling, trying not to get concrete on our noses or in our hair. it felt kind of like a barn raising - a concrete ball raising.
mr. ireland - who was weak and couldn't stand for very long - came out to chat with us now and again and then he would retreat to the comfort of a cozy chair inside. every time he emerged he kept telling us what amazing jobs we were doing and how he was so grateful for our help. and that it wasn't about perfection in the balls - although seeking the perfect round concrete ball became a meditative process. [when i think of it now - even then before i really had my own studio practice -- the repetition of it all was so appealing. i do really like repetitive acts of making]
what i remember most was that he asked and REMEMBERED EVERY SINGLE PERSON'S NAME. he spoke to each of us by our names - and asked us what we did if we were artists. he was so obviously a gentle and kind soul - and i imagine an incredibly thoughtful and insightful teacher. as a teacher now i can only hope to touch a single student that way. in a simple few minutes with sincere generosity.
we each got to take a concrete ball home as a souvenir - one that we had made. i took mine out when i heard the news of mr. ireland's passing and rolled it around in my hand. i feel lucky i have a personal story to tell about a man whose art i genuinely admire.
happy june blog friends.