An artist friend said something a little while ago on Instagram which made me stop and think. She posted a drawing she had done a while back, with the comment, “You guys have probably seen me share this piece a million times already, but […] this one has always been one of my favorites.”
Her comment got me thinking about my own process of deciding which of my pieces is my “favorite”. The humorous part is, most often when someone asks me that question, the answer I give is, “Whatever piece I am working on right now.”
Humor aside, there are always pieces I have created which have distinct, deeply rooted and richly colored connections with my own heart and soul.
Some of these connections are rooted in my initial vision of the piece. An individual sculpture may be a part of an ongoing series or thread which I am in the process of working through. There is a depth which flows out of my own personal history, or my response to the sometimes harsh reality of the world around me.
Some appear in the wild twists and turns my pieces sometimes take in their journey to completion. As I have mentioned before, I have had some figures walk through the process of actually exploding in the kiln. Not at all what I had planned on, but certainly a metaphor of transformation! Others may evolve slowly, either willingly as I feel my way through the pose, composition, and voice of the figure, or unwillingly as I face the technical realities of gravity, water, and fire and my own skills in contending with them. The creative process is always an ongoing conversation between myself and the clay.
Some develop after the fact, as I see the profound reverberations triggered in others who have interacted with them. When considering the “meaning” of a piece of art, there is always a tension between the original intent of the creator, and the meaning and message which the observer brings to the piece. This has been an issue of contention since the beginning of Art in society, but perhaps the simplest understanding is that both are relevant. Certainly, both can create their own sense of beauty. A piece of art, especially when that art is created around the figure, can often give voice to some inner cry of an individual. People have told me, after purchasing a figure sculpture from me, “Now, I finally have a way to tell my story to others.”
So, yes, I do have pieces which I may, from time to time, call my “favorite,” but it is a dynamic process — one which often complicates the process of opening up my heart to release a piece into the hands of someone who wishes to buy the figure. However, thinking about my favorites allows me to ponder what exactly I see in a particular sculpture, and what I may want to continue to work into my own creative process as these little figures continue to teach me what it means to be an artist.