On Frames

I was at the local makerspace this weekend and I saw some work-in-progress hanging in the woodshop–a series of frames that played with the concept of frame. It’s a great theme. One that I explored in a piece in which I put a bunch of found objects into a fancy glass case in the lobby of a public building. The conceptual weight that frames and fancy glass cases give their contents is a fun concept to explore. Oh, how people stopped and stared at those objects!

But most of the time as artists we are more focused on the content of the frame than the frame itself. Yet, making a decision about how to frame a piece can be surprisingly challenging. For example, I have been trying to decide on whether the piece that I’m working on right now should be freestanding or hanging. I finally decided on hanging for several reasons that I won’t get into here. But one reason that was holding me back from making that decision was that I knew that that decision led to the inclusion of an overt rack or frame.

The frame influences the art. If I choose a laundry rack, that frame will give the piece a domestic feel. And within the decision of laundry rack, there are several kinds of laundry racks. If I choose a lightweight rack, I have to think about how that will affect the movement of the piece. And will that movement be welcome or distracting?

If I go with a work light or photo light rack, that kind of a rack will give the piece an industrial feel. And while I like industrial on an aesthetic level, is that really what I’m going for with this piece? Do I want the art, which is already mechanical, to be the same as the rack or do I want contrast? And if I want contrast, should that contrast be obvious or subtle? Is it something that you see right away or something that you only notice in an extended viewing?

For now, I’ve decided on a cheap, simple, lightweight laundry rack. But I won’t really know how it frames the piece until I set it up in my living room and sit with it for a while.  I’m looking forward to that.



from the archive: Nile Rogers and Figure-Ground