Shaping a New Paradigm in the Visual Arts
The paradigm of art, expressed by artists to the public, can stumble
in the head, owing to the fact that creativity is expressed with emotions
we feel and sense, not as experiences we only think about. Since we all
sense and feel emotions, then it is logical that we can all appreciate
creativity. But this recognition is easily and often blocked through
our social fabric. Concepts are easily approachable, but not feelings,
and feelings are often subjugated to the intellect, that is generally
held in greater esteem by contemporary culture.
I would like to put forth the idea that creativity is not just a
process of the brain. I want to suggest, that creativity is c
ompelled through an integral consciousness, i.e., one of the heart,
mind and spirit. We are born into a world dominated by rational
thought and linear thinking. This type of thinking usually deals in
a duality that is quantified as one thing or the other and dominated
by ego. Simply put, most of our circumstances are directed by values
of one purpose or the other, determined by the agendas of our social fabric.
Creativity is born out of a greater experience. It can be stimulated from a
n emotional response and influenced by the subtle natures of compassion
or empathy. In fact it rarely exists without compassion or empathy, although
it can be driven into action solely by the ego. Dynamic, creative
exchanges, between people, almost always work through these emotions.
A song speaks to one’s heart. A painting as well, but the ego of the painter
or songwriter, can be the directive force that pushes the artist into action.
Once in action, it is the emotions of the heart that drives it, either
consciously or unconsciously. Artists often strive to express intellectual
ideology, consciously associating with one idea, school or concept.
But the resultant art can defy this and communicate through the
hearts of the viewers, not the minds. This perplexes the general
population. They are instructed in the intellectual aspects of art,
and after experiencing it, try to relate to it in this way. When in fact,
it is appreciated in the heart and emotions of the public, this
contradiction often leads to the statement, “I don’t understand it”.
This is not just an admission of lack of understanding, but rather a
social signal indicating the difficulty in rationalizing the emotional w
ith the intellectual in appreciating art.
Through out history we have isolated the artist, as separate
from the mainstream, different, blessed with a unique talent.
It has not been fashionable for us to think of creativity as a
universal energy. But, now we are moving closer to the accepting a
form of consciousness that is common, one we all share. This has been
partially brought about by the media revolution. As ideas are
shared instantly, globally, differences and distinctions are diminishing.
We all are now connected through a technology that simulates the global
mind we seem to desire. This beginning of a common consciousness
will help us to realize that we share creative energy in a similar
way that nature shares the biosphere. We are all linked through
expressions of empathy or compassion, known to us as creativity.
Every act of creativity draws on our empathy or compassion.
Creativity is the manifestation of either or both of these emotions.
Before we became seduced by our individuality and ego, before the
technocratic epoch, people existed in harmony with a collective
consciousness. This was dominant in the Neanderthal period and i
n some early Homo Sapiens. Then, the rapid development of our
frontal lobes created the sense of self, an awareness of our
uniqueness and this drove us away from our collective mind.
Now we have moved to the end of this era and we are again
approaching the need for a collective mind, in order to function for the
greater good. Many have expressed the need for this to come to pass,
so we can heal the breach we have formed with the biosphere and within
the communities of the world. This concept of a common mind has been
called the “nooshpere”, by new age writers, representing a global mind,
analogous to the term of biosphere, that represents global nature.
These thoughts are the product of open thinking, by this I mean
that they are being conceived by many at the same time in
many places, similar to open computing. It is not a local intellect
that generates my thoughts on this, but a greater integral
consciousness developed through common resources. In order to
benefit from this, one simply must open their awareness to its existence.
When we do, we realize we are part of a global awareness that unifies
us all. This is similar, metaphorically, to any plant in nature
being part of global nature and subject to the butterfly effect, where a
small change in one place reverberates through the whole. This
thinking involves listening to our inner voice, and this is tricky,
for it treads closely to what can be construed as psychosis, yet
the narrative of this voice is recognized as authentic and subtle, not
directive and all consuming. It is also a voice that can be silenced
and neglected. Trust in this voice is based on experience with its
gentle nature and not the fear and domination that is present in true psychosis.
It is this inner voice that is essential for the evolution of our
creative potential, but it is one that popular culture is attempting to shout out.
One art form that still bridges the distinction between the evolved
consciousness of self and the older common consciousness is music.
Because of this, it is easy to look at music as a model for this new
common consciousness, one that many contemporary thinkers
propose will approach telepathy. Music has been suggested
as a universal language. It is understood through the heart,
not just localized in the brain. It requires no explanation or
translation, even across cultures. Visual art should parallel this
but in contemporary art, it has gotten lost in the head, and
academic considerations dominate. Certainly there are academic
concerns in music theory and composition. But these become
subservient when the music is expressed and experienced. I would
like to argue that the visual arts would benefit from a similar
perspective. Humanity would then have two expressive modalities
functioning with an integral consciousness, i.e., the expressions of the
mind, heart and spirit.
We are limiting the power of the visual arts by placing it within the s
phere of academic concerns, who now concentrate on art that reflects
popular culture. Popular culture is driven by issues and agendas that
are largely allied to a commercial market. This type of commerce is
controlled and manipulated within the mind and stimulated by a
profit motive. Affirmation of this resides in the many successful
strategies of advertising that create conspicuous consumption,
material greed, and drive popular culture in the marketplace.
Certainly it is not our hearts or spirits that create the desire for a
new car, dress, super large drink or any of the many consumer
goods we covet. So by bringing visual art into this realm, we are
effectively limiting its potential and denying the integral aspect
that would offer it a greater universal appeal. It is no wonder
that the primary association a visual work has in the contemporary
world is that of market value, or more succinctly price. This is the
universal link of the world art scene today, and a sad limit on visual
arts true potential.
In order to recapture the visual arts true universal force,
it must confront this limitation and open the door to integral expression.
This would involve a re orientation of the academic ideology and a
new plural direction by the museums and galleries. There are many
artist who express their art with an integral consciousness and it is clearly
apparent in their art.
A place has to be made for representing this to the public on an e
qual footing with the dominant trends of popular culture.
In art that reflects an integral consciousness, there is a fundamental
difference in application and expression. The dominant art today,
reflects popular culture, and denies the direct link between the artist
and the art through the use of the artist’s hands. It is common for
the art heroes of today to delegate the making of their visual art to
a team of artisans, leaving the artist to conceive and orchestrate the
desired results. The market has embraced this for it avails to it more
“product” and a greater revenue stream. This has led to the visual art
world’s emulation and co-opting of the commercial market place and
allowed a global expansion of this market, where price is the direct
representation of the arts value. Art has become the status product
in this market and trades on this association to ascribe its exaggerated
value. The Japanese artist, Murakami, drove this to an absurd level,
by offering a handbag done in concert with the luxury brand Louis
Vuitton, with just the artists symbols placed on the surface of a ready
made bag. These bags were sold within a major museum exhibition
for a much higher price.
On a personal level, I would like to mention that selling
my art has always been difficult, like going to the dentist.
But, having a good art dealer, who understands my misgivings
and humors them is like having a dentist with a great bedside
manner, it can make something painful bearable and even pleasant.
I also recognize that I must take care of business in order to have funds
to pay my bills and make more art. I do not see this as a contradiction
in my thoughts, because I am not advocating a black or white position.
I would like to see more shades of grey, where the commerce of
art exists to serve the continuation of its expression and not be an
end to itself. And, it is gratifying to find people who appreciate my art,
want to have it in their lives and offer it a home.
Modern culture today, over stimulates the individual and demands
rapid assimilation, production, and compliance. This benefits the
market place and returns great profits and growth to economies,
but denies us of the rewards of an integral experience, one that
stimulates the body, mind and spirit. People have become impatient
with processes of education that take time and dedication and would
rather identify with media and experiences that return instant
gratification. What is lost is the needed mastery of materials,
thought and association. These can bring forth intuitive transformations
of material and intent, into stimulating works of art that touch the spirit,
engage the minds, and evoke response.
We are all creative, although the ability to harness creativity is discounted
by many, either with the common statement, “I am not creative”, or
by simply neglecting its presence. Often, creative expression
is stifled consciously or unconsciously early in life. It can be reawakened,
and positively impact our lives. Creativity is a chance to be in touch with
our uniqueness and at the same time to realize the paradox that within
this uniqueness is a common source.
The artist hands are seminal to the magic of visual art created
by an integral consciousness. The hands of many artists express
the activities of the heart, mind and spirit, not merely the mind.
Allow me an indulgence, I am a sculptor, and I would like to
include a poem I wrote that I feel captures this idea perfectly:
a journey of their own.
To run over this form of metal.
sense its name,
find its soul.
They then know
what I need.
Are they finished?
No, now they want the file.
Along with many other artists, I feel that the activities of my
hands are transformative to the materials involved in the creation
of a work of art. My hands know how to change an image or form,
into something more than just the reformed material. This involves
a transformation of the material through energy and intent. This process
is difficult to delegate to others, for it is part of a magical essence that
gives an art work a special energy, apart from the effort and material.
The resultant art is valued and understood through the heart and
perception of this energy, whenever and wherever it is viewed,
without the need for subsequent explanation.
I speak of my hands as an entity unto themselves, because I feel,
when I am working, they are expressive within a domain that is not
a product of direct conscious thought. They function within a state
of mind that I will refer to as a “functional daydream” and
understand what they must accomplish on their own. When in this
state of consciousness, I am not concretely aware of time, place or
rational context, but rather in a type of waking meditation.
Directive thought and action are not taking place, I am as
if in a dream, but not asleep. This ability was gained after
many years of practice and the development first, of a proficiency
with the tools and materials I use. It is the fruit of dedication and
long training. As an analogy, think of walking in a city while
conversing with a friend. Many hazards are adroitly navigated
while the conversation continues. This is the fruit of many years
of perambulation and cannot be accomplished by a child. Thus,
my studio practice becomes the integral actions of my hands,
heart and spirit, and I am hardly alone in this approach.
When you entertain creativity as a form of day dreaming and
this type of dreaming is used as a creative tool, the typical
association of day dreaming being a child’s activity, non productive,
counter to group compliance and its subsequent stifling in early
education must be vanquished. Then the activity of art as a
functional daydream, rightfully becomes a complementary part of
the creative process.
There are many strategies an artist can use to help associate art
with integral consciousness and realize a growth from it. First
among them, I would like to discuss the importance of a sacred
work space. In contrast to the artist factory or artisan workshop
where art is created under the direction of the artist, I suggest a
space be established that you treat as sacred, one where you expect
creative energy to transform material and intent into art.
In this of space, it is possible to transform effort and materials
into something more than just effort and materials. The result can
have a quality that is distinct with a perceivable energy of its own.
Accomplishing this is a separate enterprise from ordinary tasks and it
is important to define a special place where it can happen. Acknowledging t
he distinct nature of this activity is seminal to its success. In effect, it is a
form of self hypnosis that becomes functional only when one acknowledges
its viability with a belief in it. No matter the theory, belief that a strategy of
methods can harness your greater creative energy will work. The
methodology is important because it becomes associative with the process,
i.e., if it works for you, good, but, it is important to be consistent.
Sanctifying a space empowers you to bring a level of concentration,
devotion and awareness not present in ordinary events. Using this
space only for this purpose, keeps this methodology viable and effective.
Unfortunately, monotheism has cast an aversion to ancillary
beliefs and the special powers of animate and inanimate objects.
If you cannot work around this, it will limit the use of these
processes in your creative life. I would like to suggest that the
use of sanctification and a belief in special creative abilities,
should not interfere with one’s primary spiritual direction.
If you allow for the extra ordinary, you often gain extra ordinary results.
I usually start the day by preparing my studio. I will burn some
sage to clear the air and strike a bell that send a resonant wave t
hrough the space. Both of these activities are beneficial in focusing
my intent and clearing away distractions. As I burn the sage, I ask
the smoke to protect me from injury and help me manifest my best
possible energy. This practice was coopted from my experiences
with Native American ceremonies and the bell is from my time in Japan.
Since they both have personal meaning to me, I use them and they work.
I also talk to my tools and thank them when we do good work together.
It would be easy to see this as non sense, but consider that this action
allows me to work at a higher level of proficiency and safety. It also
gives my actions with these tools special significance. Again, this
I feel brings out a higher aspect of concentration and creativity in
myself. Why should I choose to deny these positive attributes with
a smug nihilistic attitude? I have cultivated a person relationship
with all my tools, some of them have been with me for more
than thirty years and when they wear out, I find it almost
impossible to remove them. Often I just put them aside, and
let them be witness to the creative energy they once helped
bring forth. My hands know my tools, they are friends and
share a joy in our creativity.
Most art is made with materials that are products of traditional
manufacturing processes. When an artist delegates the handling of
these materials to artisans or other workers, they give up an i
mportant transformational opportunity. The resultant art work
often has the presence of a common manufactured commodity
with little or no unique energy. What is gained by adapting ready
made vehicles for artistic expression is usually not as great as
what is lost in artistic character.
The metal I use in my sculptures and paintings, is a cooper
alloy that I get in sheet form. It is gold and polished when it
arrives, looking very industrial and valuable. The gold will fade
over time with natural oxidation, to a muddy brown and loose t
his precious quality. I usually etch most of this material with a
non specific pattern that is unique and hand applied.
This process adds days of hard work and cost, but it yields
the special quality I am looking for. It gives the metal an
instant sense of history and distinct surface quality. When it is done, it is mine.
I never sign my sculptures, this I feel would attach my ego
to the work and I want each sculpture to be free of me when
it is done, and have its own energy. My art dealers always
decry this lack and often state that it has a detrimental effect
on its value. I feel the opposite, but agree that provenance
must be established. This is easy to achieve with my technique
of etching. The surface I create is non regular all over and
a high quality image will assure identity. It would be much
more difficult to duplicate this random etching pattern than a distinctive signature.
Between what is asked and what is given, the artist finds acceptance.
Again, in speaking of integral consciousness and the arts, what goes
on in the studio is often not of the head but of the heart. Thinking
often gets in the way and many visual artist listen to music during
their creative phases, in order to take them out of their thinking
mind. The intuitive voice of the heart works through the process
and needs not to be directive in the mind. Perhaps the reader cannot
accept the premise that the heart speaks through the artist’s hands.
How can the heart speak? It is just a muscle, an involuntary organ.
Clinically speaking, this might be so and physiologically these
differentiations of consciousness may just reflect the difference
in left and right brain activity. But, for the sake of this discussion,
I would like to suggest that the metaphor of speaking from the
heart holds a greater global association for most. It is descriptive of
a type of consciousness that is shared in the greater sense and
not just acted upon by the individual. It is this global consciousness
that I feel drives creativity and offers its voice to the audience.
When I set up to work in the studio, I usually have some plans of
what I want to work on. I can start from an idea or drawing but often,
shortly after I will find that my hands and the process take over.
Suddenly, what I thought the days work would be, changes and I
am directed by the unfolding energy. I will usually stimulate this
by working with music. Each type of task in my studio suggests
a corresponding music and I begin with the selection I feel will
work. I have a vast library of music, across many fields and nationalities.
I count on this to lead me into my creative state. Again, intuitively,
I mull through the sounds until I find the right one, and let the sound
push the flow of my creative consciousness. After years of doing this,
I was curious how many of my artist friends used a similar strategy.
A casual sampling of about a dozen artists I know, found only one
who didn’t work in the same way. I am curious whether musicians use
visual art in their studios?
Stepping back to dreaming, I want to talk about the dream like
quality of creative energy. As a visual person, I always “see”
images in my minds eye. This is like a flash of an image, not
too distinct or sharp, more like a subtle impression or gauzy
image. Very much like an image from a dream or a daydream.
Daydreaming is not an activity adults actively participate in,
but I see it as essential for creative health.
to be continued
Jeffrey Maron, September 9, 2009