The id is defined as “inherited instinctive impulses of the individual as part of the unconscious.” It’s also generally associated with sex drive. What got me going on this was the observation by friends that I had what they thought was an “instinct for art.” Following the ideas of Sigmund Freud, friends wondered if I had some “inherited instinctive impulse” similar to what drives folks to have kids, etc. I reminded my friends that I’ve spent a lifetime suggesting it’s just a matter of developing a bundle of good work habits and creative techniques that cause you to fall in love with the game.
The question, however, is worth asking. Is it possible that art-making is a sublimated form of sexuality? Has it something deeply to do with display and invitation, perhaps even seduction and prowess? Is it linked with the greatest creative act of all — the bringing of new life? How connected to creation is creation? And, following the Freud thing, do we make art because we are in some way frustrated? Do we “highly evolved” animals, further up the evolutionary ladder than, say, peacocks, have a similar need for display and showing off?
Looking at some of the big (male) names of modern art, one might think so.
But where does that leave the females? Why do they do it? Is art for them a form of birthing — a sort of surrogate womb activity? Is there such a thing as higher and lower birthing? Taking cookies out of the oven is one thing; faux-finishing a ceiling or painting a mural is another. Is there some appropriate glitch in the artistic female noodle? And by the way, where does nurture come in?
While having spent a lifetime dishing out info, at this late stage I’m more confused than ever. Here in my horizontal painting position I’m pretty sure it has something to do with love. Love it; love doing it; can’t stop doing it. And I’m sure this sentiment works for both the boys and the girls. For the time being I’m discounting thoughts of trying to garner love and attention from others. Might not a decently handled piece of work be enough of love in itself?
PS: “I put my orgasms on canvas.” (Pablo Picasso)
Esoterica: One of my best systems is to simply ask myself, “What do I want to do today?” Sometimes it takes a while to figure out. But when the answer hits it’s often at a deep and primal level. You know it when you know it. It’s right for you — and you’re fired up and inspired. I’ve often wondered if my “free-association” contemplative bouts around this business have something to do with self-hypnosis. They do seem to get at the instinctive and the primal. For the time being I’ll stay on the couch–Because it makes me feel good, no matter what Dr. Freud thinks.
This letter was originally published as “Triumph of the id” on May 9, 2003.
oil painting, 24 x 18 inches
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