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February 2007


by John Clay, editor-in-chief

When I recently posted, for the first time, an interview I had conducted with photographer Alan Chin back in 2003, a friend innocently asked, "But will it still be relevant?" My friend is very smart, and it's not an unreasonable question—except to an artist and writer. While there are those artists who chase trends, I think most artists have an embracing relationship with time.

A few days ago I gathered and surveyed the materials I have on hand for creating new editions of my line of art assemblages: the steel, copper, and aluminum wire of various guages, the mussel shells, the big and small blocks of asphalt, concrete, or stone. The design of these assemblages consists chiefly in wire strands standing a few feet high, having been wrapped around an anchoring chunk of rock. Thus, a rock base and a protrusion above it. One of the chunks of rock I now held in my hand was different from the others. All the rest were raw scrap gathered from broken ground, street, or sidewalk. This one in the palm of my hand was varnished. I knew it well, I had been staring at this little decoration since the age of five—A genuine souvenir fossil from the Petrified Forest National Park of Arizona. The small chunk of fossilized wood originally served as the base on which a plastic bison was affixed. Thus, a rock base and a protrusion above it. The connection was stunning but irrefutable: Is this what I was recreating now in my assemblages these forty years later, this fossilized node of memory?

Everything we know of, are conscious of, is present now. Art and its subject matter is not good or bad, or relevant or irrelevant, because it is old or new. The time of its creation is worth knowing for the sake of context. But the moment of our consciousness is now, and our experience is new even if the object of our experience is old. If we are seeking to delimit and define our lives, time will give us no help. Time, in and of itself, cannot place any matter out of bounds.

New posts in bhag include the paintings and digital images of Cecilia Ferreira in Visual Art, an essay by scientist Yvon Chatelin (in French only) and a short story of mine in Literary Art, and an interview with photojournalist Alan Chin in Interviews.

© John Clay

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