Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Man stands at the juncture of nature and spirit, he is involved in both freedom and necessity, he is both limited and limitless.

Reidar Thomte
My uncle Stanley Bate was a successful painter. He lived and worked in the Hudson River valley, as did many other great painters. I learned an important concept from him, the art of visualization. It's the act of connecting the seen with the unseen, the fact with the fiction, of bringing together two realities, of telling a story by means of a story.

One of my favorite paintings of Uncle Stanley's is a picture of four empty chairs and four empty music stands grouped around in a semi circle. It's called "String Quartet."

Every work of art is limited by dimensions, materials and the craftsmanship of the artist. But there is attached to it something unlimited, something which exists in the artist's imagination. That something is the true story of the work of art. The art itself is merely a manifestation of what is really taking place. the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

I took that lesson and began to apply it to my own work. When a character enters a scene the actor has to know when to start in order to be in the proper place at the right time, or how many steps it takes him to get into place. He also needs to know why his character is entering the scene and where he is coming from. That's the objective reality of the moment. But the actor also has to know and bring on the stage with him the subjective reality of the character, a certain mentality, a remembrance of sights, sounds and aromas, a lifetime of experiences.

I also began to realize how important it was to visualize the life behind the words. Even in the case of master playwrights like Shakespeare and O'Neill there was more work to be done by the performer. Each speech carried the obligation to fulfill the words with the sights and sounds of not only the subject being discussed but the real life that surrounds the person speaking it. The words may evoke the image but the image is different for each actor who speaks them.

Miles Davis said "Don't play what's there, play what isn't there." Louis Armstrong said "What we play is life." An actor who doesn't know his words is lost in a jungle of confusion and uncertainty. Just as an actor needs to know his words, so a musician needs to know his notes. From that basis he can then play the visions and memories in his head, the stuff that "isn't there."

So when we look at a painting, watch an actor perform or listen to a piece of music we have the freedom and obligation to look beyond the facade to the super reality, the unlimited life of the artist and the art. To really listen to the music or the drama is listening instead to what the artist is saying which can't be said in notes and words. When we do that we can experience surprising results.

DB - The True Vagabond
Never give up.

Summer is moving along, people.

It's a long, hot, sticky summer, so here's a hot, sticky question for you.
Same sex marriage. Should it be legal or not? If so, why? If not, why not?

Only 14 answers so far.

You have until the last day of summer, but don't dally.
I eagerly await your answer.


1 comment:

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

Visualization is important in being able to move ahead. If we cannot visualize something different or better, we are destined to muddle in inconsequence.