Yesterday, Brian Crawford Young of Inverness, Scotland, wrote, “I’ve been having a crisis since I got back from a wonderful residency at the Art Students’ League, Vytlacil Campus in Rockland County, New York. The ambience was great, the staff helpful, the scenery brilliant, and the quick access to Manhattan exciting. But when I got home to the Highlands of Scotland everything crunched to a halt. All my fears and self-doubts emerged and creativity stopped. Any thoughts on this sort of blues?”
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Olivia Remes, an anxiety researcher at Cambridge, has discovered that we can develop coping skills for anxiety through the things we do. She says the way we cope can actually have a direct impact on how much anxiety we experience. We can lower anxiety just by making a few tweaks to how we deal with stress in the first place.
On Friday we went to see What the Bleep Do We Know? It’s part documentary, part entertainment, part lecture. After being recommended by so many fellow artists, I knew it would be like no other film.
It’s about Quantum Physics. It asks and attempts to answer some of the big questions: Who are we, what are we made of, where are we going? The natures of intentionality, possibility, addiction, creativity, and self-love are examined and graphically demonstrated.
Before 1956, Desmond Morris was a surrealist painter who had recently completed a doctorate in zoology at Oxford. That year, he began studying the picture-making abilities of two-year old chimpanzee Congo, a resident at the London Zoo. As Morris had recently agreed to host a show on animal behavior for Granada TV, he caught the whole thing on film.
Recently, I quietly conducted a personal experiment in streamlining my art life. Like a big purge, after almost three decades of living a philosophy of multi-tracking, flexibility and expansiveness, I narrowed the scope and range of my activities to see if it would intensify what was most creatively meaningful and satisfying. The process came with terror, guilt and a fear of loss and failure.
One of the benefits of travel, particularly if you are staying as someone’s guest, is that you get to look over their libraries. Further, you find out what they are reading right now. Here, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp has caught some eyes. Funny to be reading a New York choreographer while hanging out in Tuscany. I have a hard time putting down books by achievers. They are often clear and practical, and speak with first-hand authority.
“Your doubt can become a good quality if you train it,” wrote Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke to 19-year-old Franz Kappus, an officer cadet at the Military Academy of Vienna who, disenchanted with military life, began sending his poems to Rilke for critique. For seven years, Rilke replied with letters about love, loneliness, truth seeking, suffering and feeling and engaging with art and the world. When tackling doubt, he suggested that Kappus could transform it into a productive creative tool. “It must become knowing, it must become criticism.” Here are a few ideas:
Our eyes move toward those things already on our minds. A man passionate about model railroading, for example, is likely to look at a painting of a locomotive. But deeper cues move our eyes. Some of these stimulants are with us from birth and are a part of our psyche. Others are learned, selected and personalized by life’s preferences.
”To sense the invisible and to be able to create it,” wrote Hans Hofmann, “that is art.” An English clergyman wrote a letter 235 years ago proposing the idea of a giant but invisible star so massive that it swallowed its own light. Based on his calculations, this body could be detected by its gravitational effect on surrounding objects. In 1915, 114 years later, Albert Einstein was developing his theory of general relativity, building upon his already proven theories about gravity’s influence on the motion of light. Then, in the 1950s, astronomers with radio telescopes noticed that seemingly peaceful galaxies were emitting disproportionate amounts of energy from their cores.
Another studio visitor asked me what had changed since moving from New York to California. “Your work looks like it belongs here,” she said. I’d heard this before, though much of the work had been first imagined before my migration only 15 months earlier. Wishing to downplay the apparent apropos, I diverted attention to the question of whether my eyesight was improving. Pointing towards the immaculately in-focus San Jacinto mountain range, I stated, “The air — the light — there seems to be very little atmosphere here.” “Yes!” she exclaimed, “everything is so crystalline, so articulated; the mountains, the boulders, the stars.” We were fans of the clarity.