Saturday, November 3, 2012

With Time on Her Side: The Unique Art of Doni Silver Simons

WITH TIME ON HER SIDE: THE UNIQUE ART OF DONI SILVER SIMONS --  We have to admit it: we at Studio of Style met Los Angeles artist Doni Silver Simons before we ‘met’ her work – and we knew immediately that something truly unique was in store for us if Simons’ gentle yet profound nature was to be found in it. And sure enough, this acclaimed artist with her equally profound, thoughtful art has made her mark in the art world by doing exactly that: mark-making. Markings – a series of 4 vertical and one cross-hatched line – have become Simons’ signature and a visual tally of the passage of time. The nearly obsessive need to mark this passage of time is at the core of all her works, be they painting or performance. If the marks are not made directly on the canvas, then they appear as strands pulled from a canvas. Los Angeles area gallery-goers will have an opportunity to see not one, but two Simons exhibits in November: Caesura at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica which opens November 8th; and Alchemy at the Projects Room at Liz’s Loft in Los Angeles (see Simons’ website for more info on both the show schedules and more about her art).  For her performance in Alchemy which opens November 10th, Simons will make the first mark and invite each visitor to the gallery to add a single mark on a long narrow paper scroll as they walk around three sides of the project space – and a video will also record their hand and the sound of the mark. Periodically, Simons will visit the gallery to continue marking the same way for two months – from November 10th to the closing on January 8th.  So here’s an opportunity for you – our stylish reader – to make your mark in the art world as well!  In this exclusive interview with Simons, Studio of Style asked the artist to tell us more about the hows and whys of her very intriguing style of art.

Studio of Style:  You call yourself a 'mark-maker' and have always considered yourself as such.  When did you first realize this fascination and what spurred it?

Doni Silver Simons:  I always drew, even as a young child. However, the first time I thought of myself as a mark-marker was when I was applying to graduate school and I realized that I wanted to study drawing as a finished product. Marking -- the act of drawing and its simplicity -- was where I resonated. It seems that I am always in search of essence -- and that search is realized in the unification of "writing" and drawing lines.

Studio of Style:  What first step as an artist did you take as a mark-maker?

Simons:  In the early '70s I started to document my life through marking. I did my first marked journal in those years, abandoning writing in favor of vertical parallel lines. I marked a journal that consisted of large sheets of graph paper with one vertical line per grid. The lines were drawn in graphite.  I "wrote" (marked) intuitively each day just as one would enter their thoughts and experiences into a personal journal. The journal was shown in part at the Feigenson-Rosenstein Gallery in Detroit in 1975. A page of that journal is in the Lila and Gil Silverman collection.  

Studio of Style:  As one who observes the passage of time in its many forms as you create your work, what goes through your mind during the creation process?

Simons:  There are various levels of concentration that I go through when I'm marking or pulling strands of fiber. On the most successful days, I'm propelled on a pathway that pulls me into a very quiet space, a meditation of sorts -- a place of stillness and clarity that allows me to imbue the marks with meaning. 

Studio of Style:  What is the significance of the separation of fibers in your canvas works; the pulling apart of the cloth threads? 

Simons:  The separation of the fabric is simply the reverse of mark-making. The unraveling is done in an effort to understand or arrive at essence. The strand-pulling and the accumulation of strands on the floor echo my drawings.

Studio of Style:  Your color palette leans toward the natural, the muted, the darker edge of the spectrum -- how do these color choices reflect your artistic POV?

Simons:  Color is crucial to my work, often representing the harmonics of the piece. I have been known to fall in love with certain colors and employ those hues throughout a season or a body of work. Every once in a while a piece will assert itself and  I’ll do something quite bright or colorful. The work tells me what to do -- I simply follow directions.

Studio of Style:  Albert Einstein concluded in his later years that the past, present and future all exist simultaneously. Have you pondered this and/or subscribe to this -- or any other scientific belief?  Or are such scientific beliefs separate from your work and your beliefs.

Simons:  I believe that time is a vertical, cylindrical spiral and as such, the past, present and future line up vertically and can be accessed vertically. So, the answer to your question is "yes," I have thought about this quite a bit and I do think that all time exists simultaneously and is available.

Studio of Style:  As a mark-maker, what aspect (or aspects) of time do you feel that we (as viewers or as a society) can learn from -- or have we changed the natural aspects of time itself by our unstoppable acceleration into technology that seems to disregard perhaps the human or natural aspects of time?

Simons:  The attribute itself of making a mark requires time. Rhythms are attained, time passes, and patterns emerge. Patterns speak to people.  I, the maker, have my own rhythm and the observer comes to my work with his/hers. In the act of observation the viewer identifies his/her own rhythm. This variation that defines differences in individuals and similarities in groups. Time and marking, inherent in this situation, bind us together. Technology -- I use it, I love it.  It is simply another tool.

The work in my current and upcoming exhibitions explores time, rhythm, pattern and marking. In Caesura, a group exhibition opening November 8th at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, I will be presenting a three-dimensional work entitled Tidal, which incorporates the tide schedule to produce the rhythm of the work. In Alchemy opening November 10th in the Projects Room at The Loft at Liz's in Los Angeles, I will present a two-month interactive piece called Whisper Pitch. This drawing will encourage the gallery visitors to participate in the creation of the piece by applying a single line to the work that will weave itself into the lines I've made. This is a reprise of a performative drawing that I made in the ‘70s. It explores the value of community and communication, the "alchemy"  between an artist and her audience. In March 2013, the Shulamit Gallery in Venice, California will be presenting my work as its first solo exhibition. The show will feature the work I've done on Rumpelstiltskin entitled Homage to a Fairy Tale. 

Images courtesy the artist