Some art is quite reversible as it’s being made. Some not so much. Not unlike what’s happening with our climate these days.
Take Tracy Huber and his glass whale tails. Pretty hard to reverse the glass blowing process if you don’t like how it’s turning out. We don’t know how many tails he may have deep-sixed before creating these lovely ones. Local folk can have a look or purchase them at Two Moons in La Conner, and Trev's Glass Supply in Marysville, WA.
Dale Chihuly, Seattle’s premiere maker of art glass, spoke of this aspect in a 2008 Public television special, saying that he doesn’t fret when he sees a way to make a piece better only after it’s done. That’s irreversible. He uses that knowledge and learning in improving the next piece.
Painting and Mixed Media
But now consider deKooning, and in fact most painters. De Kooning would work on one piece for months, scraping and painting over to achieve the effect he was after. All that work on the same piece was quite reversible.
I, myself, work in fabric and wax, both maximally forgiving. Ceramics folk have that very reversible clay, up until they fire it.
Every artist thinks about their own process and which steps are reversible and which are not. It mostly boils down to how much time and effort (and money) it takes to undo something. If it’s even possible to undo without destroying the material completely.
In the world of climate change, we’re negotiating the same issues. Whose time and effort (and money) is necessary to reverse which aspects of climate change? Which aspects are like the ozone layer that turned out to be reversible? Which aspects are more like hand-blown glass - irreversible and only fixed by starting over?
Photo by permission of the artist