Caterina Fake: 30 Days of Genius

I was interviewed by Chase Jarvis, the co-founder and CEO of Creative Live, an education company that has live education around the clock, every day, in creative fields such as design, filmmaking, photography and music. It’s a great company! I was on their board too.

Here is the interview, which was recorded last week, and is part of a series “30 Days of Genius”, which includes interviews with other folks such as Richard Branson, Swiss Miss, Arianna Huffington and other interesting and unexpected people. I had fun doing it, and, while I chafe at being characterized ONLY as an Entrepreneur and Angel Investor, was able to talk about my experiences along the way.


Further Reading

These are some of the books I mentioned in my interview:

A Blue Fire by James Hillman. Hillman is a student of Carl Jung, but focuses his work on the cultivation of the soul. Great guide for creative pursuits, but for anyone looking beyond success into fulfillment and magnanimity in the old sense: great-souledness.

 

The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald. A German writer, who spent most of his career teaching in East Anglia in England. Sebald writes movingly, is deeply learned. The Emigrants is his masterpiece: a study of men, their lives and failures, their deaths.

auto-bio-graphically speaking IV: Gorgeous Nows

Perhaps the best part of my graphic journaling practice is how it is influencing my experience of the ongoing present. A new awareness of moments big, small and routine is growing. By taking time each day to notate images from my mind’s eye, I am honoring the fleeting beauty of the everyday.

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Emily Dickinson wrote often about the subject of time.

Forever – Is Composed of Nows –

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Her
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –

by Emily Dickinson

Poetry is another great way of journaling. What would happen if you reflected on one small detail from your day and wrote a very short poem (one to three lines) capturing it’s essence?

Previous entries:


Further reading and inspiration:

 

Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings. Nothing but gorgeous. Dickinson’s late experimental work photographed and reproduced exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes. A never-before-possible glimpse into the process of a great poet.

 

 

 

Baron Fig Confident Sketchbook Journal and Notebook for Thinkers. Aaaah. Is there anything better than a beautiful, chic, serene, NEW notebook?

 

 

 

Sakura 30062 6-Piece Pigma Micron Ink Pen Set, Black. Pens are important. VERY important.  Many artists, designers, writers, poets would be lost without their Microns.

Auto-Bio-Graphically Speaking III: The Mind’s Eye

What is “the mind’s eye”? And how is it that the brain can see without looking?

There are two ways of seeing: with the body and with the soul. The body’s sight can sometimes forget, but the soul remembers forever. – Alexandre Dumas, from The Count of Monte Cristo

Today’s auto-bio-graphic picks up on a Wednesday, where I skype with an old friend, fly through a design gig, and miraculously remember to take a shower before picking up groceries and kids.

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Going forward, I will be posting one panel a day….so please join me for tomorrow’s installment. Previous entries:

In the meantime, try re-imagining a few moments from your own day. What images pop into your head? How vivid are your recollections? What details stand out? What sensations? What can you see in your mind’s eye?


Further reading and inspiration:

FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel.  After seeing the Graphic journaling that I have been doing, a friend recommended that I reads this.  IT IS FANTASTIC! Very powerful and funny. Also extraordinary storytelling and  the basis of a blockbuster Broadway show.

 

Sequential Art Bristol Paper  Try some graphic journaling.  This beautiful paper makes it a pleasure to draw and helps organize your thoughts.

 


Tomboy Dual Brush pens. Heaven in a box. A royal set of my favorite markers. Mouth-watering colors, and an elegant brush stroke.

 

Ashleigh Nicole Arts Woodless Graphite and Charcoal Sketching Set-12 Piece. Great for loose sketches and “thinking” with a pencil.

A Recipe for Creativity

How do you make creativity? Curious minds want to know.

Inspired by a beautiful passage from Toni Morrison’s novel Sula, I have put together a list of 8 important ingredients that foster creativity.

First, the passage and a few thoughts about the author:

“Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.”

This description of Sula nails the potency of the creative spirit, and the importance of channeling its energy into articulate expression. As human beings, we all have creative spirit rattling around inside of us, trying to push outwards and take shape. Perhaps what defines an artist is the demanding character of this spirit, and the permission to recognize its cues for what they are: The dire need to create.

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More than any other writer I can think of, Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author Toni Morrison knows how to cut to the aching heart of things, and how to turn the invisible into sensual and tangible form. Her novels, which include masterpieces such as The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved, Song of Solomon and Jazz, are bountiful with a somatic kind of poetry as they delve into the powerful tales and experiences of her African American protagonists.

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For Sula, curiosity and a gift for metaphor are the tell-tale signs of her highly creative soul. Which brings me to the promised recipe, or at least a handful of ingredients:

A Recipe for Creativity

  1. Start with a curious mind and an open heart
  2. An unbiased hunger for studying the world
  3. Compassionate interest in experiences beyond oneself
  4. Attentiveness to all the dynamics, properties, qualities and details that you encounter
  5. You will know if you are on the right track if you can find inspiration anywhere and in anything
  6. Remember that you are building an archive of observations
  7. Metaphoric thinking. Metaphors are the tools of translation for all that you see, hear and feel. Metaphors give us words and ideas with which to hold and define our observations
  8. Last but not least, learn some skills, so that you can easily use your understanding to create and express your heart’s desire.

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Toni Morrison knows the secret sauce well. The curious, compassionate and metaphoric strengths of her work are out of this world. There is so much to learn from her.

“I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a black person and as a female person are greater than those of people who are neither…. So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger.” -Toni Morrison


CREATIVE PROMPT:

This creative exercise is inspired by master storyteller, Toni Morrison. It encourages you to look closely, and apply compassion and imagination throughout your day.  Remember to share photos or thoughts! #TCHhands

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Further reading:
Sula, by Toni Morrison Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies. In this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison tells the story of Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who meet as children in the small town of Medallion, Ohio. Their devotion is fierce enough to withstand bullies and the burden of a dreadful secret

 
Beloved, by Toni Morrison  Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a magnificent novel.

 

What Information Overload Looks Like

“Barely 40 years ago, Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein caused a transgressive stir by adopting commercial imagery from newspaper advertisements and comic strips as the subjects of paintings to hang in art galleries. How daring that was, and how dated it is. We are surrounded today by too many images to source or rank.”    -Arthur Lubow, from a NYT article on Takashi Murakami

The world is at the mercy of information, imagery and input.

Ever notice that Times Square is ominously boring these days? The place that once shocked the system with electric tugs of attention and vortexes of sparkly seduction, now kind of falls flat. It is largely an issue of relativity. We have changed. We have become acclimated to an omnipresent deluge of media and constant consumption. Midtown’s spattering of LED screens merely joins the new normal spread of our collective psyche.

What does this new normal mean for humanity?

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Scientists say that we are stuffing way more data through our system than our brains are built to process. One of the key effects of such surfeit, is that the brain loses its ability to order and prioritize information.  In other words, we are in a noisy sea of sameness, and we don’t know where to focus our attention or when to look deeply.  Important things, meaningful things, sensitive things get jumbled and flattened with the frivolous, popular and commercial.

In an interview with Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Daniel Levitan explains how information overload effects the brain:

“It puts us into a brain state of decision fatigue. Turns out, the neurons that are doing the business of helping us make decisions, they’re living cells with metabolism, they require glucose to function, and they don’t distinguish between making important decisions and unimportant ones. It takes up almost as much energy and nutrients to process trivial decisions or important ones.”

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The artist Takashi Murakami captured this phenomenon when he ordained an art movement called Superflat.  Originally specific to Japanese culture and history, his concept seems more and more relevant to the global reality of today.

Coined in 2000 for an exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the term Superflat refers to the leveling of distinctions between high and low.  Everything is driven by consumerism and there is a virtual flood fill of information. Murakami communicates this state of affairs in his icon-bombed paintings, and through his surreal sculptural mash-ups.

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Takashi Murakami came to the Superflat idea partly by reflecting on the missing third dimension that is characteristic in Japanese art history, as well as the critical role that animé and manga played in expressing postwar sentiments in Japan.

“We want to see the newest things. That is because we want to see the future, even if only momentarily. It is the moment in which, even if we don’t completely understand what we have glimpsed, we are nonetheless touched by it. This is what we have come to call art.” -Takashi Murakami

The point is that we are in Murakami’s future now. Information overload and runaway consumerism have spread us thin and made us shallow. We no longer read, we now skim or scroll. We follow power points, rely on headers and avoid complexity. We rarely stop to look closely and reflect.

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It makes me think that we all need to work very hard to protect these essential moments of attention and sensitivity that allow for profundity and meaning.

And, is this not the role of art?

If you take the time to look deeply, art will not disappoint.


CREATIVE PROMPT:

This whimsical exercise is inspired by the visual bazaar that we live in,  Murakami’s paintings and the concept of SUPERFLAT.

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Further reading, toys and supplies:
Takashi Murakami Plush Toy

 

 

 

Murakami: EGO A comprehensive volume of the artist Takashi Murakami’s work.

 

 

Random Stickers 

 

 

 

Time Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel Delaney.   Delaney digs into the example of Times Square, and how it has changed over time.

Commitment as a Path To Greatness

Life is short.  Paint everything blue.  This is the bittersweet story of the artist Yves Klein, from whom we have much to learn about commitment and maximizing our time on earth.

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In 1947 three teenagers lay basking on a beach in the South of France. They had become close friends at school while all sharing a love for Judo and the arts.  Full of youthful arrogance, these three boys vowed to divide the world between themselves.  The young sculptor named Armand Fernandez chose the earth.  Claude Pascal chose the domain of words, and Yves Klein committed to take on the sky.   If this sounds like a creation myth, that is because, in a way, it was.

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Yves Klein, Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue, 1960

With the sky as his mandate, Yves Klein got right to work. Two years after that pivotal moment at the beach, he summoned the infinite with an ethereal performance piece called “Monotone Silence Symphony”.  Following the minimalist symphony and a Judo focused sojourn in Japan, Yves Klein held his first exhibit of monochromatic paintings in Paris. For his next show in 1957, he narrowed the focus down to one single hue: the color blue.   For Klein, this color represented the concept of the void.  He was interested in how its quality of pure energy was in tension with the materiality of the physical art work.

“At first there is nothing, then there is a profound nothingness, after that a blue profundity.” – Yves Klein

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Yves Klein, Monochrome bleu sans titre, 1959,

Now known as “Yves Klein Blue”, this vibrant color had once existed only in the form of raw pigment.  Klein became obsessed with the lapis lazuli like quality of the ultramarine powder, and engineered a way to keep its luminosity while transforming it into paint.

From the get-go, Klein understood how to make an impact in the art world, and in turn his rise to success was astonishingly direct.  After the heralded blue paintings, Klein went on to explore the relationship between the physical and the void by staging performance pieces in which he used naked bodies as vehicles for paint application.  He also created painted sculptures and other conceptual performance works.  In the field of photography, Klein published poetic series called Saut Dans Le Vide, which shows him swan diving into the open air.

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Tragically, with a new wife and his first baby on the way, Yves Klein had a fatal heart attack at the young age of thirty four.  It is astounding to contemplate the targeted impact that he made with his brief time on this earth.  The commitment and focus with which he approached his life and career seems almost prophetic- as if he was well aware that the clock was ticking away, and that he needed to triage the situation.

Throughout his time, Klein stayed profoundly committed to the sky and its metaphysical implications. His mission was to outsmart mortality, and his method was to paint the world the color of eternity.

When I see Yves Klein blue I am reminded of life’s brevity, and the mandate to be focused, courageous and to make bold propositions in life.  We are all living out our own creation myths- the question is what piece of the universe will you be responsible for?


CREATIVE EXERCISE:

This exercise is inspired by Yves Klein’s passion for the color blue.

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Join The Creative Hours community. Share your experience!

email us thecreativehours@gmail.com  or post using hashtag #TCHblue


Further reading and supplies:


Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers : With the Void, Full Powers includes examples from all of Klein’s major series, including his Anthropometries, Cosmogonies, fire paintings, planetary reliefs and blue monochromes, as well as selections of his lesser-known gold and pink monochromes, body and sponge reliefs, “air architecture” and immaterial works.

 

Over Coming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein The first complete collection of the writings of the visionary French conceptual artist Yves Klein (1928–1962) published in English translation.

 

 

Ultramarine Blue Pigment Oxide Mineral Powder Life is short, paint everything blue.  It is fascinating to think about the relationship between raw pigment and paint.

Imogene Cunningham and the Blind Sculptor

I find Cunningham’s 1952 portrait “Blind Sculptor” beautiful. Photographer Imogene Cunningham was a glorious treasure to the world in so many ways, and I am excited to talk about her specialness- but first I want to explain what I love about this picture.

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“Blind Sculptor”

Let me start with the presence of touch in the photograph. Look how solidly the sculptor’s left hand cups the shoulder of his creation. In that touch I see the fatherly weight of an artist’s hand as it reassures his creation of its physical actuality. I feel the coolness of the clay, and imagine the contour beneath the sculptor’s ringed pinky-finger. His right hand is Pygmalion- and I am privy to an intimate moment of caressing and exploration. The figure’s head tilts upward with pride, and the artist’s head points down in concentration, inviting me into the hidden picture of his imagination. Then notice the figure’s giant hands which, wrapped Cycladic style, also seem to be confirming its own physicality. Poignantly, the figure has no eyes to speak of.

All photographs speak about the act of sight and creation. What makes this work particularly poetic is the juxtaposition of blindness and visual art- both in regards to sculpture and the photographic medium.

“The formula for doing a good job in photography, is to think like a poet” – Imogene Cunningham

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Born in 1883 in Oregon, Imogen Cunningham was a dynamic spirit who braved the sexist tides of her time, and became one of the most innovative and revered photographers of the twentieth century. She came to photography through studying science and processes for developing film.  Her work is known for her sensual images of botany, the body and portraits of other artists, as well as experiments in double exposure. She used the technique of Platinum printing, which gave her work a soft and silvery signature style. Her sense of adventure and passion for her work stayed with her all of her life. She died in 1976 at the age of 95.

“Blind Sculptor” is one of many portraits that Cunningham did of other photographers, musicians and artists.  I wish I knew more about the astonishing artist in “Blind Sculptor”, but I was unable to find this information.

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“One must be able to gain an understanding at short notice and close range of the beauties of character, intellect, and spirit so as to be able to draw out the best qualities and make them show in the outer aspect of the sitter. To do this one must not have a too pronounced notion of what constitutes beauty in the external and, above all, must not worship it. To worship beauty for its own sake is narrow, and one surely cannot derive from it that esthetic pleasure which comes from finding beauty in the commonest things.” – Imogen Cunningham

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CREATIVE PROMPT: GET TO KNOW A FLOWER

This creative exercise draws on Cunningham’s photographs of flowers and plants, which were inspired by the demands of motherhood and the  proximity of her own garden.

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TIP: Digital photography is fantastic for experimentation. Go wild, it costs nothing. Then you can look back at see what you think works or doesn’t work in the pictures that you took

Share your pictures!

Post them with hashtag #TCHflora or send them to thecreativehours@gmail.com


Further reading and supplies:
Imogen Cunningham, This publication celebrates the rich diversity of this modernist pioneer, covering Cunningham’s entire seven-decade career–from her abstract shots of plants and nudes and optical illusions created using techniques such as inverted positive/negative images and double exposure, to her iconic portraits for Vanity Fair of artists, dancers, actors, musicians and writers such as Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, Martha Graham, Frida Kahlo, Gertrude Stein, Morris Graves and Merce Cunningham.
Imogen Cunningham 1883-1976, Spanning all the genres used in her work, the book presents the images which marked Cunningham as one of the early pioneers of the photographic medium from her 1920’s plant images to her speciality, portraiture.

 

 After Ninety: Imogen Cunningham, Previously unpublished photographic portraits as well as selections from Imogen Cunningham’s earlier work confront the condition of old age and testify to the wisdom, dignity, despair, and loneliness of the elderly.

 

Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys, by Amy Novesky.  Here, then, is the story of Imogen Cunningham, one of the finest photographers of the 20th century and mother to three boys.

 

 

Genguine Fotodiox DIY Lomo Camera, Twin Lens Reflex, TLR Camera Kit (68 Pieces, with Detailed Instructions, Uses 35mm 24 Exposure B&W or Color Film).  Build your own camera!

Dance Dance Revolution

Pain and sacrifice are needed to be a good collaborator. You must check your ego at the door, give yourself fully to a new collective identity, learn how to give and take, choose trust over distrust, be ready to fail, and commit to the unfurling nature of process.

It is worth it.  A good partnership brings fresh inspiration, useful limitations and a supportive structure. The pushback of collaboration can carry you to places you never might have traveled to on your own. Most importantly, its challenge provides great training for any kind of creative intelligence.

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If collaboration is boot camp for creativity, then post-modern dance is boot camp for collaboration. In 1972, a dancer named Steve Paxton and a handful of his friends at Oberlin College got together, rolled around, hurled themselves at each other, practiced falling and improvised their way to a radical new dance form. They called their invention “contact improvisation”, which Paxton described as

“the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement”.

Contact Improv (as it is often called), is a movement language that emphasizes responsive reflexes and generates choreography from the alchemy of bodies in contact with one another. Paxton’s experiments with this mindful movement of the body turned traditional dance on its head and laid the groundwork for postmodern dance as we know it today. Contact Improv has qualities both edgy and raw as well as smooth fluidity. Its influences are apparent in the work of Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Lucinda Childs and many many other seminal choreographers.

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My first introduction to all of this was in college in the nineties. My friend Abby insisted that I come to her contact improvisation workshop. Nervous to be out of my element, I was relieved to find myself in creative paradise. This was not the “five, six, seven, eight, chasse, two, three, four, and keep it pointed six, seven, eight…” sort of dance I had been accustomed to. Not at all. This was playful, unselfconscious and gloriously body positive.  We experimented with finding true responsiveness to touch and impulse, weight bearing and giving, and moving as a single entity.

Contact Improv is fantastic practice for becoming a solid collaborator. Yet, as Paxton points out, it is important to remember that we are always collaborating with something. Even when alone.

“Solo dancing does not exist: the dancer dances with the floor: add another dancer and you have a quartet: each dance with the other and each with the floor.”


CREATIVE PROMPT: SMALL DANCE

Steve Paxton created an exercise called “Small Dance”. It helps you to feel creatively attune, relaxed, and to realize that you are constantly collaborating with your body, gravity and the floor.

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Further reading and resources:

I highly recommend seeking out a class or jam session. Contact Quarterly has a directory of teachers and centers. Take it from me, you do not need to be an expert to engage in this practice.

American Dance: The Complete Illustrated History by Margaret Fuhrer, traces that richly complex evolution of Dance in America.  From Native American dance rituals to dance in the digital age, American Dance explores centuries of innovation, individual genius and collaborative exploration.

 

Contact Improvisation by Cheryl Pallant.
In most forms of dancing, performers carry out their steps with a distance that keeps them from colliding with each other. Dancer Steve Paxton in the 1970s considered this distance a territory for investigation. In this book the author draws upon her own experience and research to explain the art of contact improvisation, in which dance partners propel movement by physical contact.

Why Creative People Count Their Blessings

I am grateful that in doing research for The Creative Hours, I came across Milton’s exquisite words:

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

Creative people live on everyday epiphanies. We find muses in the mundane, and receive life’s variety as a non-stop blessing. Living with a “gratitude mindset” means being in love with the poetry of now.

Way back when, from John Milton’s religious 17th Century perspective, the stakes were high. His epic poem “Paradise Lost”, grieves the biblical expulsion from the garden of eden. Milton was plagued by the irrevocable nature of this tragedy, but found a redemptive key in the poet’s mind and the reader’s imagination.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”

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Unlike the romantic grandeur of Milton, the contemporary poet James Wright found rays of transcendence within the ordinary. James Wright (1927-1980) was a tortured soul who suffered with depression and alcoholism. His lonely poems often speak for the interloper and outsider. However heavy his heart, Wright found inspiration everywhere- even on the side of the road.

Wright’s friend, the poet Robert Bly explains the inception of the famous poem “A Blessing”.  He tells how at dusk, on a drive through Michigan  they spotted two ponies off the highway.  At Wright’s request they pulled over, got out and climbed a fence to watch the horses for a few moments.  Once back in their car headed to Minneapolis, James Wright opened his spiral notebook and wrote this poem:

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.


CREATIVE EXERCISE: THIS POEM IS A BLESSING

This creative exercise takes a page from James Wright and prompts you to jot down the vivid details from a moment in your day. This is a wonderful way to practice gratitude and nurture creativity

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TIP:  don’t worry about whether the poem is “good” or not.  The fact that you are writing a blessing is good enough!

Share your Blessing!

Send to thecreativehours@gmail.com or post with hashtag #TCHblessing


Further reading and supplies:

Paradise Lost, by John Milton.  Milton’s epic poem explores the struggle for ascendancy between God and Satan is played out across hell, heaven, and earth in the work the consequences of the Fall are all too humanly tragic, with pride, ambition, and aspiration being the motivating forces

 

Above the River: The Complete Poems, by James Wright. From his Deep Image-inspired lyrics to his Whtimanesque renderings of Neruda, Vallejo, and other Latin American poets, and from his heartfelt reflections on life, love, and loss in his native Ohio to the celebrated prose poems, Above the River gathers the complete work of a modern master.

 

Ampad Gold Fibre Retro Writing Pad, Red Cover, Ivory Paper, 5 x 8.  Carry around a blessing notebook!

 

 

10 Color Retractable Pens, I’ve always found these pens to be a blessing!

 

 

 


Thank you readers for the Blessings!

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Inside the Vision of an Artist

“Seeing is a very sensuous act-there’s a sweet deliciousness in seeing yourself feel something”- James Turrell

I remember the first time I saw a work by the artist James Turrell. It was Spring break of my senior year in college. Home in Soho, I was flitting around the neighborhood on a bright sunny morning when I found myself in front of The Barbara Gladstone Gallery. With time aplenty (ah to be young again), I opened the door, gave a shy nod to the gallerina behind the desk, and entered the beckoning tunnel of darkness.

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It was hard to say where the tunnel ended and the room began. All I knew was that a lilac apparition appeared before my eyes. The first tingle ran down my spine as this lilac rectangle of light seemed to reach out towards me and then recede into the distance all at once. I slowly stepped towards what I thought might be a glowing canvas. With every step I expected my eyes to clarify the numinous situation, but with every step understanding slipped farther and farther away. What the hell was I looking at? Was it material? Was it far from me? A few steps ahead? Did it lead somewhere? Am I dreaming? Nervous giggles started bubbling out of me as I nudged forward in a state of delighted awe and disbelief.

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Not knowing can be a ticklish feeling. It is a sensation that I personally adore, but I know that many find it uncomfortable. As humans, we are wired to make sense of things- to process clues and arrive at an understanding. We crave comprehension, reward logic and believe measurement. This is how we anchor and orient ourselves in the world.

Art, however, invites us to hang out in the unknown. It allows for a different, more spiritual sort of mooring. The poet Wallace Steven’s words express this beautifully:

“Most people read poetry looking for echoes because the echoes are familiar to them. They wade through it the way a boy wades through water, feeling with his toes for the bottom: the echoes are the bottom.”

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What is so genius about Turrell’s work is that it subverts our primary sense making system- our eyes- into functioning as a receiver for the liminal and mysterious. One cannot look at a Turrell work, one must be in a Turrell work,  and being inside of the work means we are inside a state of wonder.

“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible”- Oscar Wilde

Orchestrating these experiences require a technical wizardry that Turrell has been honing for years. He began his exploration in the sixties as part of the Light and Space movement in Southern California, which included other artists such as Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler and Mary Corse. In his artistic practice he continued to research vision, the retinal structure and to experiment with perceptual and psychological phenomenons. While his work has been exhibited and lauded worldwide, Turrell’s most important work is out of the fray, in the middle of Northern Arizona’s Painted Desert.  Roden Crater is a volcanic cinder cone which provides a “controlled environment for the contemplation of light.”  The vision, ambition and sacrifice that this project embodies is unparalleled, and speaks volumes about Turrell’s depth as an artist who looks for light.

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This exercise is about visual attunement, the goal here is to heighten your consciousness around color and light.

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THE COLOR OF YOUR DAY, A EXERCISE IN PERCEPTION

    1. Pick a color
    2. Keep a look out for this color throughout your day
    3. Make a mental note everytime you notice that color
    4. Be aware the variations you find- for example: dark red, light red, orangy-red etc
    5. Be aware of how the color appears at different times of the day or in different contexts
    6. Take a picture or two that includes your chosen color and post it #TCHcolor or send it to thecreativehours@gmail.com

Further reading and supplies:
James Turrell; A Retrospective Published in conjunction with a major retrospective, this comprehensive volume illuminates the origins and motivations of James Turrell’s incredibly diverse and exciting body of work—from his Mendota studio days to his monumental work-in-progress Roden Crater.

 

 


James Turrell; Geometry of Light The first significant Turrell survey in many years, an extraordinary body of work covering several decades is assessed. At the book’s center is the series of works known as Sky Spaces, a signature Turrell conception in which the sky is made to seem “on top of” the room’s ceiling, and which has become a mini-genre unto itself within light art.