I begin 2015 with mixed feelings. For decades, I've used the last part of the calendar year to finish things and tidy up. It's a way of making room for the possibilities inherent in a coming year. It's also what I observed among Japanese families when I lived in Hawaii. In contrast to Western spring cleaning, the tradition of susuharai or ousouji (extensive cleaning) takes place two seasons later because it's important to welcome a new year with a clean state.
After I held my first open studio Labor Day weekend, my intention was to take the remaining months of 2014 to complete projects that had been awaiting my attention for too long. I specifically set out to do this so that I could move toward my vision of what's next. Instead, I'm left with an uncomfortable sense of incompleteness--like a bridge that never made it to the other side.
Sometimes circumstances beyond his control led da Vinci to abandon a project. For example, he spent twelve years working on the statue "Gran Cavallo." But before the 23-foot-tall clay mold of the horse could be cast in bronze, a war erupted. Da Vinci's patron, the Duke of Milan, took the metal that was to be used for the sculpture and, instead, donated it to the military for the fabrication of cannons. Invading French soldiers destroyed the model in 1499.
According to art critic and historian James Elkins, that's one of three kinds of unfinished paintings: 1) the simply abandoned; 2) the non finito (deliberately left undone); 3) and the perpetually unfinished or infinite (because the artist is gripped by a compulsion). During the Renaissance, Donatello (1386-1466) sculpted only part of the block, resulting in a figure that appears to be held captive by the stone. He called this technique non finito. Other artists, including Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), have employed it as well. It also appears in some paintings by French artists Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Matisse's "unfinished canvases" provide a glimpse into the artist’s process and decision to continue moving on to new works rather than return to finish earlier ones. Like da Vinci, Matisse was versatile in that he embraced many different styles and kept exploring them.
How do you deal with UFOs in your art practice? If they unwittingly accumulate, do you stack them out of sight in a closet or under a bed, or do you work diligently until they're finished?
How do you respond to unfinished works--musical compositions, paintings, sculptures, etc.? Do they engage your imagination to fill in the blanks?
Have you ever seen unfinished textile/fiber art on exhibit? If so, what did it look like?