Some people think she’s crazy. She’s a bronco-busting, motorcycle-riding, video-making, sky-diving, giant-picture-painting kind of girl. She makes loud noises in social situations. “Man, look at that tree,” she shouts. She can laugh like a logger and giggle like a baby. She disappears from view for long periods of time — nobody knows where she is.
Zoe has what appears to be irrational exuberance as well as private enthusiasm. No grass grows between her feet. She moves too fast for passersby to even pick at her lint. Affected? I’m not sure — but she does come from a long line of sobersides.
Zoe’s energy focuses right down to the tip of her brush. While she has not always been a professional, she is now. Her overt craziness is the flip side of a serious passion. As long as I’ve known her she has been able to face down fears and reversals. She’s both a worker and a dreamer. She goes for the bull’s eyes that she sets up for herself. When she misses, she laughs out loud.
In degree there’s a Zoe in all of us. A quiet smile — seeing the silly side. It may be a tell-tale for the right-brain, left-brain yin-yang. Humour sees incongruity and makes inappropriate connections. Humor takes imagination — a jump from the ordinary to the extraordinary. That’s art. It’s Picasso’s bull made out of bicycle parts. It’s Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture “Fountain,” made out of a urinal. It’s Georgia O’Keeffe’s iris petals, Turner’s magical light, Monet’s shimmering water-lilies, Gauguin’s red skies, Dali’s moustache. It’s the transformation of commonplace reality into individualist personality. Video-makers like Zoe know that invention is the mother of invention. Motorcyclists like Zoe know that there is Zen in riding and maintaining. Painters like Zoe know that there’s value in thrill and play, in being loose and goofy, in giving every dumb idea an opportunity to breed. When Zoe jumps from aircraft, she is in the company of a great guru.
PS: “Many blocked creatives tell themselves they are both too old and too young to allow themselves to pursue their dreams. Old and dotty, they might try it. Young and foolish, they might try it. In either scenario, being crazy is a prerequisite to creative exploration.” (Julia Cameron)
Esoterica: Zoe says, “Choose to be a baby. Ask how would a baby handle this. See the world with baby eyes. Babies are seeing everything for the first time. Cool.” I ask Zoe what is her main secret. “Secret” It’s what Peter O’Toole said at the Oscars: “Private study.” Crazy?
This letter was originally published as “In praise of crazy” on March 25, 2003.
“One must act in painting as in life, directly.” (Pablo Picasso)
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