Twenty years ago or so I was taking a fine art graduate seminar class with someone who I continue to have tremendous respect and regard for. The reading selections for our small group were always inspiring and led to long, thoughtful and stimulating conversations. Her approach to reading and digesting texts most definitely influenced my approach to art theory and criticism. The selections were never limited to “art” books but spanned all areas of contemporary culture. Her expansive thinking was so fluid, so supple, that she could readily make connections and references to just about anything and bring it back to art in ways that were always relevant and comprehendible. I think it was at this point that I began writing in earnest about my ideas, concerns and practice as an artist.
There is a kind of ongoing dialogue in my mind between my own writing and the texts I read. Books give me great comfort—both through their physical presence (which I cannot imagine giving up to the e-world) but also through the words themselves and the ideas that those words probe and unfold. Books are like perfect dwellings. Their tidy exteriors belie the infinite potential that reside within their walls.
I’m always touched and impressed when someone points me in the direction of the perfect book. (Such a recommendation suggests to me that the person has noticed not only the territory I’ve already covered in the past, but seems also to be anticipating where I am headed in the future.) I felt this way several years ago when a friend brought to my attention: “Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art”. (This was right on the heels of my having completed the first “chapter” of Tidal Culture.) Her recommendation was perfect for me then and it remains a relevant and compelling resource in my library.
Most of my current art practice is not studio based. That said I do have a (small) studio. It is divided into two parts, which I call the brain (where I handle the administrative end of things and edit video footage) and the body (where I set up situations for camera work, fabricate objects, etc…). There is a small hallway that connects the two and this is where my library is located. So every time I travel from the physical side to the cerebral side or vice versa I travel through my library—a kind of land of words—which is, of course, an incredibly rich territory, where ideas and materials connect and where everything is possible.
bio: Deborah Wing-Sproul is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in video and performance. Her performances (or performative acts) permeate the genres of sculpture/installation, drawing, photography and printmaking. As a modern dancer and choreographer she studied under Merce Cunningham and many performers from the Judson Dance Theater. Wing-Sproul has also studied with voice/movement composer/performer Meredith Monk and reperformed multiple works for Marina Abramovic’s retrospective, ”The Artist Is Present”, MoMA, NYC, (March 14-May 31, 2010).
Over the years Wing-Sproul’s work has been selected by a diverse group of curators including: Jeremy Strick; Judy Collischan (while Curator for the Neuberger Museum); Patricia C. Phillips, independent Writer and Dean of Graduate Studies at RISD; Bruce Brown (both as an independent Curator and while Curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art); and Bill Arning (Director, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston). In 2007 Bill Arning, while Curator at the List Visual Arts Center at MIT, awarded a solo exhibition to Wing-Sproul at the Housatonic Museum of Art, (November 5-December 18, 2009). Mass MoCA Curator Denise Markonish selected Wing-Sproul’s video, Tidal Culture: Part II (Newfoundland) to receive first prize in the 2009 exhibition, ”H2O: Film on Water”. In the artist was nominated for a 2010 Smithsonian Artist Residency Fellowship and she is the recipient of the 2011 Individual Artist Fellowship in Media/Performing Arts from the Maine Arts Commission.
Wing-Sproul’s current long-term itinerant, performance-based work, Tidal Culture (2004-) has taken her to the North Atlantic shorelines of Maine, Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland. This project will continue onto the Faroe Islands, the Outer Hebrides and Ireland.