Diane Pieri Art Video

June 29, 2022

Diane Pieri, 2022

Artist Diane Pieri (and long time friend) has a show of her current work now at No. 5 Butchie Alley in Philadelphia. She sent me the this video in which she is interviewed about her work. She speaks of her influences and her process, which make it relevant for this blog focussed on the imagination. Although she is generous here in her sharing about her work, you will see that the vibrant work also speaks for itself- as art does. Enjoy. https://youtu.be/qrJn2s42-Vk(appx. 10 minutes)

I’m always happy to find any published information about the imagination. This piece, from The Conversation, has the added benefit of the presence of the ever-interesting Yoko Ono and a (too rare) mention of Art Therapy- albeit Art Therapy is treated rediculously superficially. I was additionally taken by this article because of the mention of the late composer, Stefan Volpe, with whom I had taken a music class in 1962.

Yoko & John- Susan Wood/Getty Images

Yoko Ono’s Vision of Self Care (from The Conversation)

Brigid Cohen February 17, 2022 8.11am EST

Light a match and watch till it goes out. Go to the middle of Central Park Pond and drop all your jewelry. Scream against the sky. 

When a young Yoko Ono formulated these actions in the 1950s and 1960s, they heralded a bracingly quirky vision for the arts as a therapeutic practice of everyday life – a vision that anticipated an ethos of self-care that’s widely embraced today.

Self-care, which refers to what individuals do every day to stay mentally, emotionally and physically healthy, has diverse origins in medical research and in the Black liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The practice has become more popular over the past decades, so much so that the beauty and fitness industries have co-opted it as a powerful marketing tactic.

To Ono, however, self-care means more than just spa indulgence. Instead, it possesses myriad dimensions: focusing the mind, gathering energy for action, connecting one’s imagination with the world, finding empowerment by connecting with others, and stimulating thought through humor and play. 

The young artist and the refugee

Ono’s celebrity marriage to John Lennon has often overshadowed her individual work and career. 

When I came across a cache of poems that Ono had written as a young woman in the 1950s, I knew almost nothing about her personal history and philosophies. The works were mysteriously stashed in the archives of a German-Jewish refugee classical composer named Stefan Wolpe, whose life and work I was studying.

As a teenager after World War I, Wolpe had lived on the streets of Berlin until he made his way to the Bauhaus, the experimental progressive art school, where he embraced ideas of art therapy espoused by social worker-psychotherapist Steff Bornstein and artists Friedl DickerJohannes Itten and Gertrud Grunow

Wolpe, forced to flee Germany in 1933 as the Nazis came to power, was separated from most of his family, including his daughter, who spent World War II in a Swiss orphanage.

After the war, Wolpe drew on his education as a resource, turning to music composition as an imaginative realm to model the wonder of fragile beginnings in the midst of dire constraint and unfathomable loss.

Man holds two fingers in the air
Stefan Wolpe. Archiv der Akademie der Künste, BerlinCC BY-NC-SA

Around 1957, Ono befriended Wolpe, who was over 30 years her senior, and his wife, the poet Hilda Morley. Ono enjoyed tea in their Morningside Heights home in New York City, indulging in “the intellectual, warm, and definitely European atmosphere the two of them created.”

Ono would later write that she was “surprised by how complex, precise, yet emotional his works were. I don’t know of any other composer of the time who represented atonal music so brilliantly.”

United by trauma and displacement

Ono’s poems, which evoked scenes of hunger, terror and beauty in a snow-filled landscape, seemed strangely resonant with the life of Wolpe, who was haunted by his traumatic flight from Germany. Later, I realized his experiences were connected with Ono’s own story of displacement and violence. 

As an adolescent, Ono had begun to discover her own calling as an artist in the cold countryside outside of Nagano, Japan, where she and her family had fled as refugees after the Tokyo fire bombings in 1945. 

This was the imaginative terrain of the poems she shared with Wolpe: 

  the snow swallowed the sunset
  the bright sadness has ended
  only insane fingers frozen remained lying
  infinitely
  in the field
  like landed fishes 

Without food or adequate shelter, she had spent her days with her younger brother conjuring alternatives to the hopeless circumstances around her. As she recounted in an interview with curator and Asia scholar Alexandra Munroe, “[l]ying on our backs, looking up at the sky through an opening in the roof [of a barn], we exchanged menus in the air and used our powers of visualization to survive.” 

Black and white vintage photo of father, mother and child.
A 2-year-old Yoko Ono pictured with her father and mother in 1935.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ono came to recognize imaginative acts as necessities in life. Under these desperate conditions, she wrote, “we needed new rituals, in order to keep our sanity.” 

Around the time she met Wolpe, Ono was estranged from her parents after she had made the unconventional choice as a woman to pursue a career in the arts.

Later, writing and sharing poetry with Wolpe would be one example of such an imaginative ritual – an instance of care both for herself and for her émigré friend. Wolpe and Morley preserved Ono’s own typewritten poems as cherished documents, even rescuing them from a terrible apartment fire.

Sharing rituals of care

Ono’s commitment to regenerative rituals would form the basis for her career in the arts. 

At first, these exercises were private and personal. Imagining a menu would stave off hunger. Screaming against the sky would give shape to extreme emotions. Lighting a match and watching its flame extinguish would quiet the mind. 

Eventually Ono would come to disclose such rituals to the public, inventing a new form of art in the process. Equipped with these exercises – what she called “instruction pieces” – she established herself as a founding mother of the 1960s performance and conceptual art movements. As a Japanese woman artist and peace activist, she frequently confronted gender and racial bias. But her ethos of art as survival sustained her.

Ono’s book “Grapefruit,” first published in 1964, is a cult classic dedicated to the idea of art as a form of self-care. Written in the imperative mood, it instructs readers in how to realign their perceptions, imaginations and actions in relation to the world. 

Ono’s directions mix together the earnestly mindful, the psychedelic and the wry: 

“Imagine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time. Let them shine for one hour. Then, let them gradually melt into the sky. Make one tunafish sandwich and eat.” 

The art of survival, then and now

Ono’s ideas are often far out and witty. Yet the relevance of her ethos of art – and even her instruction to eat a sandwich – is serious. 

According to the American Psychological Association, in the U.S., “32% of all adults are so stressed” that they “cannot make basic decisions such as what to eat or what to wear.” 

These numbers are far higher for people of color and young adults who, like women, face disproportionate economic insecurity and other forms of hardship. These facts call out for rethinking what self-care actually means and how it pertains to the arts.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=280079152739123201&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Ftheconversation.com%2Fyoko-onos-prophetic-vision-of-self-care-176228&sessionId=d0f1791adef17606fe7638e9694cd9e0e2933427&siteScreenName=ConversationUS&theme=light&widgetsVersion=2582c61%3A1645036219416&width=550px

During the current pandemic, it is no surprise that art therapy has become a focus of debate and experimentation. The tools of this practice, which include coloring books and emotion wheels, may seem galaxies away from the museum world that celebrates Ono’s legacy. Yet, from a certain perspective, it is oddly close to her spirit. 

In an era of political turmoil and economic instability, I believe such an accessible vision of art as Ono’s can be a resource for psychic survival, community and resilience – connecting people with prior struggles in ways they might not have imagined. 

Such an approach to engaging with the world can help individuals to shift perspective to simply get through the day, or it can lead to dazzling, incongruous visions that transform ideas about what the future may hold.

https://theconversation.com/yoko-onos-prophetic-vision-of-self-care-176228

I couldn’t agree more with the premise of the beautiful piece by Maria Popova on The Marginalian. Cave’s description is similar to the art school idea of “process vs product”. But with his inclusion of the spirit the discussion is elevated and expanded. Creativity can help us to elevate and expand ourselves and there is never a time when that is not relevant. (Bob)

BY MARIA POPOVA

Two years before she fused her childhood impression of a mechanical loom with her devotedly honed gift for mathematics to compose the world’s first computer program in a 65-page footnote, Ada Lovelace postulated in a letter that creativity is the art of discovering and combining — the work of an alert imagination that “seizes points in common, between subjects having no very apparent connexion, & hence seldom or never brought into juxtaposition.” 

Her father — the poet Lord Byron, rockstar of the Romantics — embodied this in his own work, fusing influences* as diffuse in time, space, and sensibility as Confucius and Virgil, Erasmus Darwin and Mary Shelley, Greek tragedy and Galilean astronomy, to compose some of the world’s most original* and enduring poetry. 

A century and a poetic revolution after him, Rilke captured this combinatorial nature of creativity when he contemplated what it takes to write anything of beauty and substance. 

All poets — “poets” in Baldwin’s broad sense of “the only people who know the truth about us,” encompassing all artists, all makers of beauty and knowledge, all shamans of our self-knowledge — understand this intimately, and therefore understand the most elemental truth about creativity: that *these two words are chimeras of the ego. 

I see my soul reflected in Nature. One of artist Margaret C. Cook illustrations for a rare 1913 English edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print.)

There is no blank slate upon which works of true originality are composed, no void out of which total novelty is created. Nothing is original because everything is an influence; everything is original because no influence makes its way into our art untransmuted by our imagination. We bring to everything we make everything we have lived and loved and tessellated into the mosaic of our being. To be an artist in the largest sense is to be fully awake to the totality of life as we encounter it, porous to it and absorbent of it, moved by it and moved to translate those inner quickenings into what we make. 

That is what Nick Cave, part Byron and part Baldwin for our own time, explores in an issue of his Red Hand Files — the online journal in which he takes questions from fans and answers them in miniature essays of uncommon insight, soulfulness, and sensitivity, opening up improbable backdoors into those cavernous chambers where our most private yet common bewilderments about art and life dwell, and filling those chambers with the light of sympathetic understanding. 

Nick Cave by JooHee Yoon

When a fan from my own neighborough asks Cave how he muffles all of his influences in order to hear his own inner voice and trust that he is making something wholly his own, he answers with his characteristic poetics of numinous pragmatism:

Nothing you create is ultimately your own, yet all of it is you. Your imagination, it seems to me, is mostly an accidental dance between collected memory and influence, and is not intrinsic to you, rather it is a construction that awaits spiritual ignition. 

Your spirit is the part of you that is essential. It is separate from the imagination, and belongs only to you. This formless pneuma is the invisible and vital force over which we toss the blanket of our imagination — that habitual mix of received information, of memory, of experience — to give it form and language. In some this vital spirit burns fiercely and in others it is a dim flicker, but it lives in all of us, and can be made stronger through daily devotion to the work at hand.

Art by Maurice Sendak for a special 1973 edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

In consonance with Black Mountain College poet and ceramicist M.C. Richards’s lovely notion of creativity as the poetry of our personhood and with anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson’s concept of “composing a life” — which captures with such poetic precision the fundamental fact that our very lives are the ultimate creative work — Cave adds:

Worry less about what you make — that will mostly look after itself, and is to some extent beyond your control, and perhaps even none of your business — and devote yourself to nourishing this animating spirit. Bring all your enthusiasm to bear on the development of that good and essential force. This is done by a commitment to the creative act itself. Each time you tend to that ingenious spark it grows stronger, and sets afire the ordinary gifts of the imagination. The more dedication you show to the process, the better the work, and the greater your gift to the world. Apply yourself fully to the task, let go of the outcome, and your true voice will appear. You’ll see. It can be no other way.

There are echoes here of Whitman, who declared in his “Laws of Creation” for “strong artists and leaders… and coming musicians” that to create means only to “satisfy the Soul”; there are echoes, too, of Mary Oliver and her invocation of “the third self” — that crucible of our creative energy, which demands of us to give it both power and time. 

Complement with Cave on music, feeling, and transcendence in the age of algorithmsand grief as a portal to aliveness, then revisit poet Naomi Shihab Nye on the two driving forces of creativity, John Coltrane on outsiderdom as a wellspring of originality, John McPhee on the relationship between originality and self-doubt, and Paul Klee on how an artist is like at tree.

From: The Marginalian

Kafka’s Drawings

October 30, 2021

Kafka's Dancing Man Drawing
Kafka’s Dancing Man

It seems that Kafka made an argument for disallowing illustrations and drawings to be associated with his writing. By emphasizing the power of visual imagery he suggested the strong effect such visuals would have on the imagery in his writing. It makes sense- a writer may want the imagery of their words to be evoked independently of suggestion. To read this essay from the Philip Oltermann at The Guardian and see a few more drawings, click the link below.

www.theguardian.com/books/2021/oct/29/franz-kafka-drawings-reveal-sunny-side-to-bleak-bohemian-novelist

I love this work. Click through for more and larger images.

Creativity and Healthy Aging

September 16, 2021

All good suggestions here. From this article and personal experience, I would say that healthy again requires resistance to a regression to simple routine, familiarity, and sameness. While there are rewards for engaging in a pared down simplified life, there seems to be a big downside as well. Seek novelty, keep moving.

www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/creativity-may-be-key-to-healthy-aging-here-are-ways-to-stay-inspired/2021/07/10/679e20fc-e0e1-11eb-9f54-7eee10b5fcd2_story.html

It is good to see that research is being done on the imagination. However, as with so much research, the expectations and methods tend to bring results that stay within a rational framework. I doubt that such research will learn much about the arational aspects of the imagination.

Picture yourself winning the lottery. A telltale pattern of brain activity can be seen on an MRI machine.
— Read on www.inquirer.com/science/mri-imagination-depression-alzheimers-joseph-kable-20210601.html

John Keats on his deathbed. The Print Collector via Getty Images

“…Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason — Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge.”

With this statement in a letter to his brothers in 1817, John Keats, the singular English poet, describes his concept of Negative Capability. It seems clear that this concept describes a condition in which the potential for creativity is optimized.

See also this post from Richard Gunderman in The Conversation.

John Keats died 200 years ago tomorrow, February 23, 1821.

From “The Queen’s Gambit”

In “The Queen’s Gambit”, currently showing on Netflix in the U.S., the protagonist Beth Harmon, a young orphan is first introduced to the game of chess by observing from a distance. Having activated what develops into a genius for the game, she uses the stimulant and relaxant drugs her orphanage requires to activate her imagination to run through games and moves.

A sometimes demeaned phenomenon, imagination is present and available to anyone with only a shift of attention and a willingness to trust this arational aspect of knowing. As a form of knowing imagination follows logic that does not apply to rational knowing.

(Mild spoiler ahead!) Beth’s dependence on the drugs for this imaginative process runs throughout the story until near the end she discovers she can, and must in this instance, use her imagination in this way without the drugs. For me, this was one of the best parts of an engaging and entertaining story.

For one scholarly and enlightening explanation of the logics of rationality verses arationality see: Gregory Bateson, “Style, Grace, and Information in Primitive Art”, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind. 1972

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Queen’s_Gambit_(miniseries)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind?wprov=sfti1

Persistent habits facilitate creativity by leaving the mind open and uncluttered. The undeniably creative Lynch explains his methods.

The Recipes of Famous Artists: Dinners & Cocktails From Tolstoy, Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, David Lynch & Many More | Open Culture
— Read on www.openculture.com/2020/08/the-recipes-of-famous-artists.html

Music and art as an “accumulation of wisdom, the context art gives us that puts life into perspective, (Sonny Rollins) and transcends politics. From an article in the New York Times, May 18, 2020, as told to Ian Carlino.

This video below shows a graphic comic artist demonstrating automatic drawing. I learned to do this in the late sixties when I was studying art. Although the artist says, “let your brain” do the work, I actually experience it as letting my body/mind do the drawing while suspending any conscious, deliberate attention. (I imagined that the energy for the movement of the drawing come directly from my heart through my arm, bypassing my head. I felt like an observer to my own drawing process.) While following along as an observer I was always surprised at what emerged. At some point late in the process I would notice an object emerging from the markings. At this point I would redirect my attention and apply deliberate action to bringing out the newly discovered object. This process of automatic drawing has been very rewarding, both as a meditative process and a way to discover new images heretofore hidden below my conscious awareness.

www.youtube.com/watch

 

Here is a very good article on creative flow from an angle from which you may not be aware. Enjoy.

 

How to Unleash the Great Perfection of Creativity

By Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

From Lion’s Roar; Buddhist Wisdom for Our Time, July 2, 2017

Informed by the profound teachings of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal tells us how to unleash powerful creative energy we can use anywhere, from the office to the art studio.

Photo by Jennifer Pack.

READ THE ENTIRE ESSAY HERE.

 

Lying and Creativity

December 16, 2009

It appears that there is a link between lying and creativity. Jonah Lehrer, in his blog, The Frontal Cortex, writes about this and links it as well to the ability of jazz musicians to improvise. Interesting subject. Looks like a blog worth following.

Brick

 

A new study has shown evidence that creativity is boosted by an intervention of bi-lateral eye movement designed to increase hemispheric cross-talk. Some of you may be familiar with the use of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) which also uses bi-lateral eye movements. This article from the Research Digest blog of the British Psychological Society discusses eye movements for increasing creativity. Interestingly, the outcomes are affected by which hand is the stronger- as in right- or left-handed.

Are you wondering why the picture is of a brick for this post? So did I when I saw the original. The article will reveal all.

Fellini’s Imagination

October 24, 2009

Fellini sketch 

"For me the world of my imagination is always closer to the truth than is the truth." 

"If I wander around the world looking at things, it is only to reassure myself that the world I have invented is true."

Frederico Fellini (1920-1993)


Every issue of Life Magazine until the end of 1972 is available on Google Books for free. I did a search there for imagination and found this entry: From the July 30, 1971 issue of Life is an article by Dora Jane Hamblin on Frederico Fellini , the great Italian movie director. This piece is about the creation of his made-for-tv film, The Clowns. If you are familiar with his films you know how imaginative they are- perhaps some of the best examples of imagination in filmmaking. The Life magazine article has sketches made by Fellini as studies for this film.

Apparently, Fellini was greatly influenced the Jungian analyst Dr. Ernst Bernhard and by the autobiography of Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It seems that some of Jung's ideas influenced some of his important films– 81/2 (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Satyricon (1969), Casanova (1976), and City of Women (1980).