One morning in Kohler, when I had NPR on, an interview captured my attention. In it, a woman with a microphone traveled the country asking people from all walks of life to answer three simple questions for her: "What do you live for?" "What would you die for?" and "What would you kill for?"
Aside the philosophical/existential comments of highly educated and little-lived 30-somethings, most answers had to do with family, one's partner in life, and achieving fulfillment in one's profession or job. But mostly, answers named a person (or persons), loved by and cared about deeply by the interviewee.
The radio piece made me think then, for reasons that only became clear to me much later.
For a while I've been digesting the same topic: Love and Work. Emotional and physical attachment. How they are fundamental to us, human beings; to our being human. How they each can become the driving force and the end result of one another. The expression "Labor of Love" kept floating through my mind.
Love is hard work, a constant maintenance in the same way one might tend a garden, build a house, bake a pie, keep fixing the same rotten junk of a car, or make a piece of artwork.
Labor we think of as the tool, the means to get to something, the token. I wonder if work is only satisfying, only fulfilled when it comes from loving what we do.
Many examples come to my mind for how Labor and Love are intertwined in immensely complex ways. I watched my mother grind her body with repetitive, "dumb" labor for decades; first in a factory, then at home with housework, then in the few different but always physically demanding jobs she held before finally retiring. I can't say she loved these jobs, but somehow the motions of doing them brought a kind of affirmation to her life. Athletes understand intimately how love and labor depend on each other. Distance running is like that for me.
The finished project may feel like a kitchen sink of these ideas for now.
I had made all the pieces at Kohler I felt necessary for an installation that addresses the relationship between Labor and Love. The glazed ceramic pieces are the casts of the broken plaster molds. They look like a field of semi-precious gemstones, partly polished, partly rough. I can also show them on pedestals, isolation and elevation making the individual objects even more precious-looking.
There are accompanying text pieces on tiles, on plaques that attach to the pedestals, and as free floating gold lustered ceramic calligraphy on the wall.
It will be a while for the installation to be shown in its entirety. By then, some things might change, I may have more clarity or at least a better way to talk about it. But I think I've got it right for the most part already.
Here are some images of the finished work (photography by Jeff Machtig of John Michael Kohler Arts Center). Please visit my website timeatihanyi.com for more.
|hundreds of pieces of glazed vitreous porcelain cast from the broken mold fragments. the smallest fragment here is about 2" and the largest is about 20"|