Inventor, Invented

Photomontage: Blue WorldI was thinking about how I used to see the world through my designer goggles. You know, the way kids see what is and think of it in terms of how terrific or terrible they find it, and what they would do if they were The Boss and could make it exactly to their specifications. Yeah, you know: just as adults do. I still never visit a city or park, or sit in any room, without redecorating it or rebuilding it entirely, to have greater comforts, improved functionality, and superior beauty. All according to my standards, of course.

But as a kid, I got a running start at this by scrounging up every bit of interesting scrap and oddity I could find, and taking my current collections and organizing them into bookshelf-filling houses, costumes for characters I made out of other scraps, or perhaps imaginary landscapes into which I could mentally insert any stories I wanted to create. And, unlike some, I never grew out of it. I have always been surrounded by enablers who have not only permitted but even fed and encouraged my addiction to playing with reality. How would I remake the universe in which I live? I don’t know my plan in its entirety yet, but I am always, always working on it. Photo + text: How I Make this Place

What is the Metric Equivalent of Thirtyhunnert Pazillion Words?*

Digital illo: Birds' WordsA Flock of Words

How fleeting is the flight of birds

Compared to mine, on made-up words!

Vast verbal ventures fly me high

Above their wings—above their sky—

Above the reach of angels’ thought,

So lofty are the words I’ve got.

Proliferation I can send

Beyond the universe’s end,

Where birds and angels, so it seems,

Fly only on the wings of dreams,

And I, the master of the words,

Master the dreams, the angels, birds,

The flimsy few whose flight intends

To float to those far-reaching ends

Where language takes me—but I know

Linguistic lands where they can’t go,

Because they lack these fragrant words,

Unknown to angels, dreams, and birds,

And all whose wings are not enough

To keep up with such heady stuff.

Wafting aloft, flaring with fun,

I leap the moon, the stars, the sun,

The past, the present, times not yet,

The known and unknown, and I get

No weariness from flying here

Above the mental atmosphere,

But elevated past all birds,

I’m wild with joy on wings of words!

* One of my posts.Digital illo: Word Wizardry

Beautiful, Bubbling Chaos

Blaze of Creativity

In a second, one iota, in the tiniest of times,

is the space to make a gesture that surpasses reason, rhymes,

that outpaces every meaning, each idea, concept, scheme,

hold more power than all order and more hope than any dream—

It’s the glint of living freely in a bright, creative flare

without borders, without worries, only hope and joy in there;

it’s the tumbling of the atoms into place where happenstance

makes them line up into beauty as pure music, pleasure, dance—

If the chaos of the openness and depth of space affrights,

how will any of us find a way to light the empty nights?

Let the effervescent madness take a sweeping arc abroad:

in such wild, uncharted wonders, one might hear the voice of God!Digital illo: Beautiful, Bubbling Chaos

Leave the Lights On!

digital illustrationWhile I’m closing out an old notebook that I kept in blog form a number of years ago, I found yesterday’s post and this companion one. So what the hey, I’ll share this one with you, too.
It’s Thanksgiving Day [2005!] and I am particularly thankful this year for having celebrated a whole year of emergence from clinical depression. For anyone out there who has been mired in it, or still is, I send out a fiercely made wish for your recovery and new joy in life, along with this meditation I wrote after realizing not only how far and how long I had been away from my true self, but the cultural setting in which it is possible to get there without realizing it or even having others see it clearly.And with deep thankfulness that it is possible, with help, to be revived.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Let’s stop all this rubbish about Depression as a romantic notion.

The myth of suffering being necessary to ennoble the spirit or, more commonly, to shape creativity and artistry and the personalities that foster them, is an inaccurate and unhealthy construct that belies the potential power of sanity and contentment. The idea that much of the great art that has sprung from the work of troubled or diseased artists throughout history would have been impossible, or the artists Not Themselves, if they’d been well or happy is simply a gross assumption of the inflexibility of the human spirit at best, and an insult to mortal intelligence, invention, and character at worst.

In a telling moment of literal as well as figurative turning-on of the lights, participants in a 2004 Canadian study on Deep Brain Stimulation as a possible treatment for otherwise-untreatable depression noted that the world became a visibly, physically brighter place when “area 25”, or the central zone of depression response in their brains, was stimulated to relieve depression. Many of the patients described a distinctive, even poignant, instant of pleasurable shock when the electrode stimulation, suitably placed, flooded them not only with unaccustomed sensations of contentment and ‘rightness’ in their world but also a clearly discernible brightening of their visual perception. It was as though, one commented, he had suddenly remembered a whole range of colors and values and sensory impulses and emotions that had been locked away for decades.

Nowhere in this was there any indication that the participants in the study experienced a negative change in their self-concept when their depression was eased. No mention is made of the patients losing their creative impulses or intellectual depth. Not a note of regret or sense of personal diminution.

The breezy optimist, on the other hand, is not by definition dimwitted or shallow or uninspired. While cultures that have embraced a darkly Romantic mythos of the suffering genius tend to dismiss brilliance that emerges from happier sources as a fluke or as slick, glib cheapness that won’t withstand the value-test of time, many stars and their accomplishments defy those definitions.

Yes, depressed, manic, even twisted and tortured souls with the deepest of psychological, physiological, or chemical-addled warps and wounds have been the vessels and sources of high art and equally high drama, but they are far from alone in that. To say that they only achieved their greatness because of their damaged state is a cruelty, an insult, and a cop-out that says we all could not be greater than we are, if not equally “gifted” with darkness. If being let off the hook ourselves is what we seek, then let’s just be honest and say we don’t relish the burdens of effort and experimentation and get on with other things. I have a suspicion, as it is, that if there’s a notably higher percentage of mental illness among persons who could be classified as particularly ‘creative’, then the cause/effect relationship is one of persons being used to having to problem-solve their way out of unusually difficult circumstances on a regular basis, and so developing stronger problem-solving (read: creative) skills.

Meanwhile, cheer up! Look at the dazzle that being joyful brings. See the energy and wit that, when not wasted on grief and moroseness and morbidity, can be devoted to pursuing greatness instead, and run after it with childlike delight.

I Made a Wreath

I did make a wreath, really–well, two. And as usual, they got a little more complicated and veered from the original plans all along the way, and the wreaths sort of made themselves, with a little elbow grease from me. That does seem to be my modus operandi most of the time, doesn’t it. I like to think of myself as an artist and the chief inventor in my colorful little universe, but when I’m being honest with myself, it’s more like I’m the cheap labor. Once the particular puzzles announce themselves to me, I may be able to offer the valuable skill of problem solving to make them possible (or as nearly so as I can), along with the effort required to bring them into existence, but in truth I’m often as surprised by the end product as anybody.P&IThat’s not entirely what I meant to say in this little post, of course. What I intended was to say that my time among you makes me think wreath-making a particularly purposeful thing to do, regardless of its utility or lack thereof as an object. Because to me, they represent all of the good and cheerful things contained in holidays and celebrations, and bring fine and flexible attractions to the decoration of home and garden. But further, and more significant in this difference to me, a wreath is a way to publicly express personal happiness through a small creative act. I make no claim that this is deep stuff. It’s a small pleasure and a minor artistic outlet, a rather insignificant creation even among the doings of a humbly insignificant artist. But as a token of well-being, contentment and hope, and no less, a mark of my understanding that I am privileged to feel all of those and know that I do so in large part thanks to the fine company I keep, this is enough cheering reason for me to make such playful little artworks, and even make artworks about making the artworks. Odd, I know, but in that alone, well suited to represent me too.digital illustrationI confess, silly as it is, it kind of leaves me wreathed in smiles just thinking about it.

Hey! Over Here!

photo

My skills of salesmanship are nothing to crow about. If I try to show off too much I’m far more likely to end up eating crow.

Self promotion is a gift. Some people are born wheeling and dealing or have inborn salesmanship, and others are born artists. Okay, that’s an unfair generalization, to be sure, but as an artist myself, and one admittedly devoid of any sort of business acumen or PR skills, I also know a ton of other artists of all stripes who, left to their own devices, would or will forever work, then die, in obscurity. I am glad and relieved that there are people for whom the promotion of others is an interest, skill set and/or gift.

If it weren’t for the practitioners of good business, whether as active promoters of artists’ work or more indirectly as patrons (buyers or spouses, for example), lots of us in the arts would either have to give up our artistic vocations or starve in the legendary garrets of the unsuccessful, regardless of talent or commitment.

There’s no obvious solution to this perennial artists’ dilemma, since being self-promotion-challenged so often includes being confused and intimidated by even knowing how to find and secure an able and supportive agent to carry the weight. What a conundrum.

This post, as you would naturally guess, is not a how-to. If I had the answers, any of them, I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you or even cognizant of this puzzle at all. This is, instead, a note on my own perpetual wrestling with the questions of what to do with my creative impulses besides rambling around with them towing me by the heartstrings. I may forever stand in mystified awe and envy of those who know how to crow.photo