Sunday
Jan232011

Craig Goodworth: Post Modern Pilgrim 

Artistic products result from the ongoing performance of his life — an unusual process that is mystifying and counter to the typical art practice of contemporary artists. Craig Goodworth is a former student and friend of mine whose work as an artist can be both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful to contemplate, discuss, and, argue like a good book or bit of philosophy, yet terrible at times to engage as the uncomfortable imagery is difficult to digest or the conceptual agenda is too strong to stomach. My relationship with Craig and our ongoing conversations have led me to develop an intimate relationship with him and his work thus allowing me to gain some insight that I hope to share. Many interactions and critiques over the past few years have convinced me that it is impossible to separate the artwork of Craig Goodworth from the person. In the following paragraphs I hope to unpack a perspective that will ultimately be beneficial to the reader to learn about the artist, but also stretch our understanding of contemporary art and its possibilities. 

A modern day cowboy, Craig has made his home as a traveler of sorts to areas of the world most folks would not visit. A monastery is not an unusual abode for him as the quiet and reflective nature of such a location is ideal for his thinking. The romanticism of the desert or wilderness is more acceptable than the cluttered high-rises of an urban city. A mountain man of sorts, his stature fits the bill. He stands over 6'4" combined with his grizzled beard and flannel shirt, a Paul Bunyan reference, the mythological lumberjack would not be out of the question when trying to identify him. A former college football player, his rugged exterior should not alarm you because Craig operates with smoothness and tenderness uncommon for a real cowboy. He is an artist, akin to many other mythological artists and writers whose personas are mixed with their art. Craig recalls peers like Joseph Beuys, the German performance artist, Richard Prince, an active proponent of visual myths and Thomas Merton, the 20th century American Catholic writer and monk. These artists frame Craig’s work as he pushes his work into the spiritual and social aspects of life.

Craig speaks with a seriousness reserved for the most important things in life. He does this on a daily basis. The intensity he brings to his art is inspiring and draining. Qualities that speak to the content and depth he explores. A performance-based video piece “Concrete Cruciform” documents him drudging a shovel, wheel barrel, and wet cement out to a site where a deceased deer sits with its stomach slit open. The imagery is intriguing and repulsive. It certainly references death, decay, processes, rituals and new life as Craig fills the carcass with cement. A host of conceptual issues can be raised from such an experience as he redefines what we would typically see in expired animal. Instead Craig invokes religious symbolism that speaks of redemption and purpose. The animal’s body is reused to draw attention to death and if there is anything left after such an event.

The unusual materials and the myriad of interpretations is part of the wonderful nature of contemporary art in the 21st century. The art product does not need to be pretty to be aesthetically powerful and beautiful. Something terrible can be wonderful and conceptually rich to engage. Craig finds deep importance in the processes he undertakes. Nature and ritual are giving enterprises that he yields to create art. The ritual of filling what is empty and the time involved in telling such a story is important to him and he attempts to communicate aspects of this in media ranging from videos to poems, and drawings and sculptural products.  However, I find that there is much more we can learn about Craig’s art if we consider his life as an ongoing performance. Acting as a shaman of sorts it’s best to consider his artistic products as evidence of his thinking. The art products are experiments and all we have left is documentation of a journey he continues to pursue. 

 

G. James Daichendt is Associate Professor and Exhibitions Director in the Department of Art at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. Jim is the author of Artist-Teacher: A Philosophy for Creating and Teaching and earned his doctorate from Columbia University and masters’ degrees respectively from Harvard University and Boston University.