“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” ― Pablo Picasso
During my last year of graduate school one of my art professors came by my studio one evening to lead a group critique session. “Someday,” he told me, “you will have a storage problem.”
Those were wise words. I took most of my graduate school work to the dump two years later.
The author’s post grad school dump run
Being an artist means making things, and those things can pile up fast. Only lucky works of art survive — or deserve to survive — while numerous other works are slashed, smashed, burned or trucked to the dump.
When I recently asked artist friends on my Facebook page to tell me stories about art and destruction I found that I had opened up a nerve-hitting topic. Artists destroy works both during and after their making, and they both savor and sometimes later regret their destructive impulses.
Here, in edited form, are some of the many anecdotes, comments and bits of wisdom that artists and others had to offer on the topic of art and destruction.
Stacy Rosende Bykuc
“Every piece has several destroyed compositions beneath. I call it ‘process.’ If a piece sucks, it’s just not done.”
April Zanne Johnson
If, as an artist, you love everything you make all the time and are never self-critical, it is impossible to grow and evolve.
“Shredded by hand with a razor (or ripped if paper)… the sound is intoxicating and freeing. Never had a single regret. I took photos before so I had it archived but have never looked back. I do a purge of work every 3-4 years and it’s great. Not everything goes but those I am not proud of or works that have lost their meaning in my life.”
Just today. Etchings.
“I destroyed a 52 ft. wide painting. Tired of storing. Tired of hanging onto it. Some things are better in memory.”
Lauren Levato Coyne
“In an essay I just posted I detail throwing a six foot drawing out the window. No regrets.”
“When I left LA I threw out a few really old paintings in the dumpster at my studio. Before I left I saw a homeless person had made a shelter out of them. I was happy. More recently I’ve been cutting up and recycling old paper pieces and using them on my painted wall reliefs.”
“75% of the finished work I do is deconstructed. Cut, torn, burned, sanded and then reassembled and recomposed into something radically different. As for paper used in sketch work I oftentimes cut into strips and weave to use as texture in my abstract work, and filler in my sculpture.” . . . .