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I am for an Art

This was written for and presented at the 2018 Western Cast Iron Art Conference held in Granite City, Illinois. The only prompt given was Claes Oldenburg's I am For... written in 1961 for the catalogue of an exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery. Each presenter approached the topic very differently. Text has been edited for clairity.


I am for an art that is metal, wood, fabric, paint, shit, etched, carved, smashed, hammered, printed, cut. An art that is plaster, resin, paper, clay, foam, garbage, found, twisted, formed and shaped, cardboard, collected, flocked, welded, steel, iron.

I am for an art that is hot glued and glittered. Dolphins and cats. That is an exception to the rules. Cacti paired with succulents and desert sunsets. Barbie.

I am for an art that is for the middle class, the working Joe. Blue-collar art. Galleries that show the work of a farmer, mechanic, handyman.
I am for tractors, combines, international harvester, Allis Chalmers, mini vans, Massey Ferguson, big blue trucks.
I am for a clean work bench and obsessive compulsive tendencies.
I am for a work bench that is a mess, yet everything is in its place.

I am for wide open views, sunsets, crop rows, wind rows, windmills, barns and grain bins. Pastures and prairie. For front porch sitting and patio drinking. Running bare foot in a summer rain. For country night skies and sounds. For wheelbarrow swimming pools.

I am for the wind and rain, the beautiful, unyielding violence of Mother Nature. Watching the storms roll in. Feeling the unnerving change in the weather. Standing in the front yard right up to the last minute.

I am for an art that depends on the weather. That depends on knowledge gained from generations past. For an art that is also a prayer and a good guess.
I am for an art that depends on your neighbors, friends, family. An art that builds a community.
I am for an art that turns friends into family.

I am for Jesus and dogs. Eyeliner and chapstick.
I am for music and stories.
I am for an art that dances and sings off key.
I am for an art that speaks softy and carries a big stick. Art that hits the dead horse with that stick. An art that drags the stick. An art that yells.

I am for ideas that sneak up from behind, tap you on the shoulder and whisper pick me. Ideas that slap you in the face like the smell of a tent that has been in storage since you last went camping that you forgot you put away wet.
I am for the elusive ideas, that evade discovery.

I am for overcoming creative constipation through whatever it takes, a six pack and booze cruising, forced collaboration, deadlines, assignments and studies. Stop wallowing in self pity, get off your ass and make bitch!

I am for an art that is about nothing. Empty and hollow.
I am for an art that is about everything. Overloading the senses.
I am for an art that is black and white. This or that. Nothing in between.
I am for an art that is the gray area. That questions the boundaries, sets new limits, challenges, does not conform, sets a new standard of “normal.”

I am for an art that makes a profound statement, social commentary, based on research, historical references. Art that just comes from what you love and the desire, the need to make.
I am for an art that is appreciated for it being art, not because it matches the couch.

I am for good form, sexy welds, multipart molds, tradition.
I am for the smell of oxidizing iron shavings as you sweat and shower.
I am for boob sweat, pit sweat, elbow pit sweat, and sweat that drips off your face and sizzles on a fresh weld.
I am for bath bombs and shower drinking.
I am for boot whiskey and glove beers.
I am for sweet red wine, a damn good Bloody Mary and a case of PBR.
I am for salad, even though sometimes it makes me sad.
I am more for steak and carbs, medium rare, and full of butter, garlic, and regret.
I am for fresh bread. Buttered and toasted. Homemade jams and jellies. Fresh tomatoes. Food that is home grown, fresh from the garden, unwashed and enjoyed with ranch dressing.
I am for snacks.

I am for PBS. Bob Ross, America’s Test Kitchen, Martha Stewart

I am for an art that is precise and planned, weighed and measured. Meticulous and calculated.
I am for an art that is flying by the seat of your pants, happy accidents, and happy trees.

I am for the darkness, because without it we don’t know light. Sadness so we can know joy.
I am for an art that creates an environment.
I am for an art that is heavy, that gets moved over and over again.

I am for an art that has tangy, sweet, smokey heat.
I am for an art that is rusty and crusty. Decaying. An art that is tidy and clean. Crisp.
I am for an art that is smart, witty. An art that has a brain and uses it.
I am for an art that is outside the box, an art that is inside the box, an art that is the box.

I am for compositions that occur naturally, mechanical openings and closings, clean tight fitting parts and pieces. The appreciation of raw materials, tools, and machines. Industry. Rebar. Gussets. Rivets.
I am for hard edges and undulating forms.
I am for texture, vibrant color, and muted tones.
I am for stacks, piles, boxes and bins. Sorted. Labeled. For sexy packing jobs, where the crate is as good, if not better, than what is being shipped.
I am for high levels of organization. For classifications and groupings.

I am for an art that is chemistry, physics, mathematical equations, even though I fucking suck at math. An art that is technical drawings. Schematics. Diagrams.
I am for an art that is illustrated project sheets. That is a copy machine, a scissors, and a glue stick. That is process and material demos.
I am for an art that is sketchbooks bursting at the seams with content. Sketchbooks full of notes, little scraps of paper, collage, drawings, curse words. Sketchbooks that are held together by a rubber band and duct tape.
I am for very sharp pencils, pens that write smooth.

I am for air kicks and punches, jazzersize, yoga. Short runs. Long walks. Roller skating. Busting ass. Pulling muscles. Ibuprofen, garlic pills, and vitamin b12.
I am for selfie sticks.

I am for an art that is making with your hands, in the dirt and grime. The aches and pains, groans of the body after a long day’s work.
I am for cuts and scrapes, callouses, perm-a-dirt, fiberglass splinters, stitches. Stupid should be painful. Hard work should be visible. Twisted fingers, fat knuckles, broken nails. Tequila shots. Burns and bruises.
I am for safety first!
I am for black boogers and snot rockets, tobacco spit.

I am for an art that doesn’t whine, that works, that goes full out.
I am for an art that will sac up, goes above and beyond with out being asked.
I am for an art that understands the value of tools, materials, and space.

I am for leather, steel toes, jeans that fit good, coveralls and vest when its colder than tits, tank tops when its hot as balls.
I am for safety glasses, because no one wants to be like Carol. She never has her shit together.
I am for pigtails, tie dye, slouchy beanies, and big dumb hats.
I am for Thursday pants, Monday socks, and suspenders of exasperation. Overalls, sweat pants, and Sunday bathrobes.

I am for FUs and 48s. Tits up the ditch.
I am for the passing of time enjoyed, days well spent, making, creating, hanging with badass people. Slow. Lasting. Repeated. Frequent.
I am for the passing of time with asshats, turds, and paperwork, swift.

I am for curse words and colorful vocabulary. Talking loud. Long stories, all the details. Secrets. Made up words. Sound effects.
I am for mold forks. Inside jokes, dad jokes, fart jokes, puns, and bad punch lines. Humor and hilarity. Laughing until you cry. Laughing until someone else pees.
I am for an art that doesn’t talk shit. If it does talk shit it better be good! An art that is respectful, follows directions.

I am for Pinterest, DIY, and crafty shit.
I am for an art that steals the bike but doesn’t let anyone know it was stolen. That gives the stolen bike a face lift, tassels, and a baseball card on the spokes. Maybe a dumb little bell and a basket.

I am for an art that lives in the round, on the wall, outside, in a gallery, on the fridge, in a box in your parents’ basement.
I am for an art that disappears to the dump, the scrap yard, is absorbed into another artwork. Art that is never finished.
I am for an art that is purchased.
I am for getting paid for what we do. Artwork is work!

I am for surrealism, formalism, pop art and kitsch, art nouveau. John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood, Norman Rockwell, Monet, Oldenburg, Cornell, Dali, Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson, Louise Bourgeois.

I am for procrastination. Then busting ass to get it done.
I am for being on top of your shit.

I am for cooking, but not doing the dishes. Eating, but not gaining weight.
I am for reusable water bottles and shopping bags.

I am for patches on pants, patches on jackets, patches on furnaces, patches on truck frames.
I am for welded initials, sad irons, koozies, spray foam, flower arrangements, quilts, sunflowers, wheat, pliers.
I am for moving truck Tetris, loading trailers when everything fits just right. Ratchet straps, tie wire, old gloves, foam, and a hope and a prayer.

I am for an art that inspires, enlightens, entrances, and excites.
I am for an art that is  passionate and enthusiastic, that is shared. For teaching, learning, making. Making mistakes, changing perceptions, failures that turn into success.

I am for the crazies, the bad asses. The ones that have been in it for a long time. The new comers. The next generation. Passing it on. Family trees.

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