Saturday, May 30, 2009

Careful Creativity 5/30/09

Art is imitation, not of things, but of the nature of things.

Huntington Cairns
Hail, Important One.
Many people get to the door of art and the appreciation of art and stop. I don't know, maybe they assume it's locked, or something.

I remember some episodes in my later years when younger actors would ask me questions about acting. I frequently said that acting, like any other art, has to conform to natural law. When queried about that once I picked up a leaf off the ground. It was autumn. The leaf had a beautiful thrust of green coming from the stem up through the center, then fanned out to a passionate red and onto to a cheerful amber at the edges, with each color blending with the others. I said that in order to be an artist we have to come up with something as beautiful as that leaf. But nature creates them by the zillions every year and then just tosses them away.

Why do artists paint pictures of leaves and flowers? Why did Gustav Klimt paint The Sunflower? It sort of looks like a sunflower. But it is really the essence of that particular one of a kind sunflower. As a result it is a magical work of art.

Mimicry, which is different from mime, has its place in the entertainment world, but it does not describe the essence of what is being mimicked. I've known of people who have normal, not unpleasant speaking voices in real life, but give them a script and they immediately start sounding like Katherine Hepburn, Marlon Brando or John Wayne. It's a terrible habit because it leads right up to the closed door on creativity. It has nothing to do with art.

Here's a simple example of what I think, but it illustrates the point. The Little Black Box. It was a small plastic box with a toggle switch on the top. If you flicked the switch to "on" the lid slowly opened a crack, a small emaciated arm came out; switched it to "off" and fell back into the box which closed again. When I saw it I thought, This is great. It's a humorous design to illustrate the dedicatedly depressed mind. It says "Leave me alone. I'm content in the dark crypt of my hermitage." It tells the story with a laugh. It's going to be around for a while. Next time I'm in here, I'll buy it.

A few weeks later I came back and there was the little black box. Only now there was a slot for a coin. When you flicked the switch the arm came out and pushed the coin into the box. "Gee" some unenlightened person said "that would make a cute bank." Cute. But it said nothing. One was a humorous expression in art of the universal metaphysical essence of defeat, depression and avoidance of life. The other was a bank.

The next time you look at a beautiful painting or witness an excellent performance remind yourself that you are looking at a window.

DB The Vagabond
Throw some joy around.


Gerry said...

This entry reminds me of how difficult it is to explain writing from life. At first I wrote fiction because I really had not experienced enough of life, but the harder I lived the more living characters gripped my imagination and would not let go, compelling me to write about them instead. Then I once read Moby Dick in its entirety which is called a novel but I think is an astounding way the author was able to encompass his knowledge of the great whale. He had to do it. The whale seized his imagination and would not let go. Scientists who want to understand the whale should read this book which I did not realize is usually not printed in its entirety, but truncated. Still this novel exists and that is still a miracle.

Beth said...

I think sometimes people try too hard to figure out what an artist was trying to say. In a frustrated voice, they say, "But what does it MEAN?" I always try to figure out what I think it means, how it makes me feel. I have no way of knowing what was going on in the artist's mind when they made that particular work of art. I can only look at it from my perspective and see what it means to me. If I've read about the life of the artist, or if there is a guide that mentions what was happening in their life when they created that piece, that might give me some insight...but do artists create with the goal of the viewer understanding them as a person? I doubt it. Sorry, I'm rambling. :) Beth

Big Mark 243 said...

This was a real thought provoking quote ... and that is what a good artist does, stimulate the senses in others.

And that mission has been accomplished!!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Being creative is art, being practical is commercial. Blending the two is very difficult.