O B S E R V A T I O N S


It was a cold and rainy winter’s day, the kind best spent indoors. I packed up some drawing supplies and headed for my favorite location in the city, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If I had to be indoors, why not be surrounded by a stunning collection of art housed in grand architecture? Initially, I thought my visit would be that of a relaxed observer, however, on the walk to the museum I decided my intentions would be more serious and formal. My goal was to perform two basic acts fundamental to all artistic practices, seeing and drawing. I wanted to draw directly from life both literally and figuratively. I hoped to translate not only optical information, but also the energy or presence a particular work felt to emit. After hours of meandering through the museum I discovered that I had nearly filled my entire sketchbook. I had drawn Italian bronzes, Roman sculptures and pottery, Indian gods, Tibetan deities, Oceanic masks, Chinese stone carvings, Thai temple deities, and 20th century paintings. It had been a very productive day, and satisfied with my efforts, I headed back to my hotel. As I looked at the drawings later that night, I found that they became a series of transitional devices through which I could reexperience the museum’s collection. More importantly they had become maps of hundreds of decisions that spoke of my artistic practice.

OBSERVATIONS, a series of seventy-two lithographic prints, originated from the sketchbook of line drawings completed at the Metropolitan. The drawings were duplicated (without manipulation) and transferred to lithographic plates for editioning. The prints contain all the flaws and imperfections of the original sketchbook drawings. There were no erasures in either the original drawings or the printing plates.

The drawn images encapsulate one moment, and the printmaking process another. Each drawing was completed within no more than three minutes, however, the printing of the same image took hours. This type of intense and prolonged commitment is a consistent element throughout my work. Time becomes an essential component embodied in the work itself. A parallel commitment of equal intensity is echoed in the museum’s objects. These objects not only embody the time and skill of their creators, but they also speak of the beliefs and principles of a culture in stasis.

Donald McCollum has stated, “Process is a way to get things made. Once made, the object can be considered and that process of consideration is where meaning is discovered.” McCollum’s statement addressed his sculptural process. However, his reasoning could also address the lithographic process, a tool that reincarnates the drawings into a new existence with a heightened presence and solidity. If one considers the artisans who created the objects now housed in the museum, and their initial purpose, in conjunction with my ritualized observation, drawing, and printing, it may become clear that the entire process has been an extended meditation on artistic practice.

—Randy Toy



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