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.

Advice for Young Writers: Move to the Country

In a live interview, years ago, conducted by Dave Eggers on a stage in San Francisco, Denis Johnson (prolific author, National Book Award winner, war zone explorer, homeschooling dad, recovered addict) was asked the inevitable question: what advice do you have for young writers? “Move to the country,” Johnson said. Most of us in the audience had moved from small towns and suburbs in places like Minnesota or Georgia to great cities such as New York, San Francisco and L.A. to further our creative careers, live among like-minded people, and absorb the creative atmosphere these cities provided, absent in our home towns.  To us, this advice sounded, well, wrong.

Dave Eggers interviews Denis Johnson in 2003
Dave Eggers interviews Denis Johnson in 2003

But Johnson’s rationale was sound. Writing is not a particularly remunerative career. Sometimes it takes years, even decades, to reap the fruit of one’s labors. If you live in a big, expensive city, you’ll spend most of your time paying your rent, not writing your book. The struggle to just stay in the city will take up all your time. Instead, Johnson advised, move to, say, Northern Idaho, where Johnson himself lives, or the equivalent in your part of the world. Besides, you’ll be happier there, and happiness stokes creativity, in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary. Sociologists have long known that people in small towns are happier than those living in cities, as you can see from this chart. You’ll write more, and better.

Rural Happiness
People living in small towns or the country are significantly happier than urban folk. Via https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/18/why-smart-people-are-better-off-with-fewer-friends/

 

Your work may be dependent on what Brian Eno described as Scenius–the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene, the communal form of the concept of the genius–which flourishes in cities. If so, you’re going to have to pick it up and take with you to the country, as Flaubert did, who lived with his niece and extended family in Rouen, but had a lively social life in Paris. It’s largely a matter of style, goals and effort. But tremendous beauty and inspiration can be found in rural areas. And community too.

Northern Idaho
Northern Idaho, where you can finally escape the Information Overlords

Northern Idaho is just as beautiful as this photograph suggests, but if you worry about a cultural deficit, don’t. You can be just as much of a bohemian there as in the Greenwich Village or Bloomsbury of yore–the Bloomsbury folk lived out most of their lives in the country.  You can get a glimpse into Johnson’s family life there in his 1997 article about homeschooling his children. And living in such beauty doesn’t require you to be a nature writer. Denis Johnson isn’t a nature writer–he spent 14 years as an addict, which provided much of the material for his first book, Angels, and his much-lauded stories in Jesus Son. He has spent most of his childhood, and much of his adulthood, traveling around the world, some of the stories from his journeys are recounted in Seek. And then he returns home to the relative tranquility of home and gets so much done.

So don’t worry about becoming provincial. There’s a cabin somewhere just for you.


Seek: Reports from the Edges of American and Beyond. Johnson has traveled to some extreme places, and this collection of essays includes a completely hair-raising account of his trip to Liberia.

 

Tree of Smoke. Johnson’s National Book Award winning novel about the Vietnam War.

Does Social Media Impair Creativity?

If a post falls in a forest and nobody likes it, does it exist?

With one and a half billion users on Facebook, 284 million on Twitter, and at least 200 million people on Twitter, it is fair to say that social media is powerful enough to twist the fabric of reality as we know it. Its impact on the way human beings connect, share, posture, mate, learn and create is a sociological and philosophical game changer.

Let’s consider the influence of the feedback loop. Facebook alone calculates that there are at least four million posts per hour, followed by an exponential quantity of responses and shares. No sooner has an idea or creation been launched into the world, than the peanut gallery of humanity makes a spitfire assessment. Propositions are subject to an immediate litmus test. Offerings get sorted in realtime for their popularity and worthiness:  thumbs up, thumbs down, no comment, wow.

There has never been a time in history when creative output was so entwined with the feedback loop.

So, what affect does this have on creativity?

The creative process is delicate. Creations need time to gestate, space to become and room to unfold. Creators need privacy to falter and permission to fail. Nikola Tesla, who contributed to the application of electricity, was particularly concerned with the connection between solitude and innovation.

The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” -Nicola Tesla

Worthy ideas and strong art demand courageous integrity. They cannot be oriented towards an endgame of mass approval or facile consumption. However, “what works” is the name of the new game, and for a myriad of reasons it is really, really, hard not to play.  Let’s imagine how this model of pandering to approval ratings might pan out:

  • The world is risk adverse = less travel into unknown territories = cultural stagnation
  • Content is responsive = lowest common denominator rules = deterioration of quality content
  • Process is desanctified = harsh conditions for new ideas = poetic paucity
  • Creativity is about marketing = loss of original voices = homogenious and soulless society

Some of these hypotheses are manifest already in the form of click bait, shorter attention spans, magic bullets and media junk food.

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These issues are not black and white- but to my point, as I write this I am aware that complexity doesn’t work in blog posts.  And while I could also write a book about how technology stokes the creative fire, the ramification of the constant feedback loop unnerves me.

Let’s end with these wise words by Oscar Wilde:

“I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!”

-Oscar Wilde, from Lady Windermere’s Fan


CREATIVE EXERCISE

In the spirit of innovation and Nicolas Tesla, this prompt encourages you to use your imagination and wander into new territories

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Join The Creative Hours community. Share your experience!

Email your work to thecreativehours@gmail.com or post your invention using hashtag #TCHinvention


Further reading:
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

 

 
The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla Presenting some of the marvelous findings and theories which made inventor Nikola Tesla famous. This fascinating book I ncludes lectures, articles and discussions, in particular those bearing on polyphase motors.

Thank you Zaha Hadid

I don’t think that architecture is only about shelter, is only about a very simple enclosure. It should be able to excite you, to calm you, to make you think.” -Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid passed away unexpectedly today at the age of 65.  A profoundly influential architect and designer, Hadid brought a formidable sensuality and exquisite sculptural vison to everything she touched.

While her audacious ambition and uncompromising ways are an inspiring tale unto themselves, today I want to honor her by letting the work speak for itself.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Further Reading:

  HADID: Complete Works 1979-2013

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.

5 Tips to make the most of your creative energy

I adore Gilda Radner, and second her emotion:

“I can always get distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for creativity.”

Without a doubt, creativity and sexuality tap into a shared life force. Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for maximizing creative energy:

  1. When doing something creative, take your phone off the hook- or silence it
  2. Be in the moment- don’t think ahead or try to force the “outcome”
  3. Don’t be afraid to get messy
  4. Surprise yourself and be willing to go to unexpected places
  5. Be present
  6. Have fun

CREATIVE PROMPT: MAKE LIST

This is a simple exercise to help you appreciate your own creative force.  Let us know what you love to make, what brings you joy, what puts you in that happy place.

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Examples: cookies, doodles, poems, beds, paintings, table arrangements, love, sand castles, you name it!

Share your list!

Post it with #TCHmake, or email it to thecreativehours@gmail.com


Further Reading and Supplies:

Gilda Radner: Cut-Out Doll Book How hot is this cut out book!!!

 

 

 

It’s Always Something By Gilda Radner A wonderful memoir by the one and only Gilda Radner tells of her life and experience battling cancer. It’s Always Something is the inspiring story of a courageous, funny woman fighting to enjoy life no matter what the circumstances

 

Air Dry Clay Sculpt and let dry!  No kiln needed.  Soooooo Fun.

 

 


Thank you for sharing your #TCHmake Lists!

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Thinking and the Creative Process

“My process is thinking, thinking and thinking—thinking about my stories for a long time. If you have a better way, please let me know.”–Hayao Miyazaki

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity…You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”–Dr. Seuss

“My process is thinking, thinking and thinking—thinking about my stories for a long time. If you have a better way, please let me know,” says Hayao Miyazaki, and of course, how could there be a better way if you look at the result of Miyazaki’s thinking? Hayao Miyazaki is the creator of some of the most astonishing and beautiful films of our time, a master of animation. You’ll recognize them: My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and so many more.

 

If you read the conflicting ideas about creation and thinking at the start of this blog post, it’s clear Bradbury is implying a great enmity between thinking and doing, that the thinking gets in the way of the doing. He’s in the School of Perspiration. Miyazaki is in the School of Inspiration. It’s impossible, of course, that Bradbury never thought, or that Miyazaki never did, but what they see themselves doing is very different. And of course Dr. Seuss thinking of thinking as play and invention.

I went to art school in New York for just one semester, then dropped out. The professors in my classes had us working on abstraction, and conceptual art, and I felt that I didn’t have anything to say. I was 18, I had more to learn, I didn’t know about history, or life, or society, or what I believed. I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I had urges and inklings and guesses, but nothing I felt confident enough to make art out of. I wanted skills, mostly, and so I enrolled in figure drawing classes, and classes that focused on technique, the chemistry of paint, the use of different media, but eventually I dropped out and became an English major, because, at the time, I needed more thinking.

The other thing that irritated me, once I became an English major and took some creative writing courses, was the “write garbage” type assignments where you were meant to just do it, write bad stuff, anything that came into your head, especially if you were stuck, just write. I did them, and wrote down a lot of garbage, and never got anything good out of them. Maybe you did. Did you?

On the other hand, children make great art just by doing. They don’t think, they do and do, make and make, wasting shocking amounts of paper and art supplies, indifferent to quality, but fearlessly making art in a state of playful, Seussian quasi-thinking. Our culture is very action-oriented, and most of us adults are focused on Getting Things Done, laboring mightily to get straight A’s in the School of Perspiration. But in our go-go-go daily life, the common-sensical thing is to hew to Miyazaki’s method, and spend our precious free time thinking, thinking and thinking after endless days of doing.

What’s a thoughtful creative person to do? It’s not a matter of either/or, it’s how much of either, and sensing what you need to do at the time, think or write/paint/create.


This creative exercise is inspired by the tension between thinking and doing in the process of bringing out our creativity:

DOING? or THINKING? a creative process exercise

  1. Go to your art-making place.
  2. Make art. Do.
  3. If that doesn’t feel right, or you’re not getting anywhere, think instead. Keep thinking until you’re ready to do.
  4. Do.
  5. Tell us what happened at thecreativehours@gmail.com

Further Reading:

Starting Point: 1979-1996. Miyazaki started out as just another animator, but in this memoir tells of his journey from childhood dreams to founding Studio Ghibli.

 

 

Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. A documentary about Studio Ghibli, featuring Miyazaki, Producer Toshio Suzuki, Ghibli’s other director, Isao Takahata

What Impressionism can teach us about being alive

Impressionism is culture’s blockbuster. Dreamy and oh so pretty, it is easy to forget its rebel roots, and amazing to fathom how the desire for artists to essentially cut class and go out into the sunshine started a chain of innovation that led to abstraction, modernism and onwards.

“Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature”  -Corot

"Lesson in the Garden" by Berthe Morrisot
“Lesson in the Garden” by Berthe Morisot

In the late 1800’s, the “Impressionist” artists, including Monet, Cézanne, Morisot, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir and Sissley, were fed up with the authoritarian nature of the Parisian art world. They were disillusioned with traditionalism in art and uninterested in mythological or historical subject matter. These artists were loath to sit inside the Academie’s classrooms and train their skills through mimetic and reverent exercises. To boot, they found the emphasis on minute brushwork and stylistic polish to be a bore.

This motley crew of artists preferred to work outside,“en plein air”, and to let observation be their greatest teacher.

“‘Impressionism’ was the name given to a certain form of observation when Monet, not content with using his eyes to see what things were or what they looked like as everybody had done before him, turned his attention to noting what took place on his own retina (as an oculist would test his own vision).”   -John Singer Sargent

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“Haystacks” by Claude Monet

While rough impressions, or sketches used to be an early step in creating a masterpiece, these artists recognized that the imprints were an end unto themselves.  They saw the vitality in essences and perception and sought to capture the ever-shifting nuances of light, air and color that render one spot endlessly new to observe. They tried to see without commentary, and to let the colors tell the stories.  I love Mallarmé’s impression of Impressionism:

“The idea was that ‘nothing should be absolutely fixed’.. ..so that the bright gleam which lights the picture, or the diaphanous shadow which veils it, are only seen in passing, in the actual moment during which the viewer looks at the scene, which, composed as it is of reflected and ever-changing lights, palpitates with movement, light and life.”  -Stephane Mallarmé

After nearly a decade of being shut out from the official juried art exhibitions, and after many thwarted efforts to get government support for alternative exhibitions, the artists banded together to organize their own show, which they held at photographer Nadar’s studio in 1874. The exhibition caused a stir and attracted a huge audience. Among the works exhibited, the one by Claude Monet, titled “Sunrise, an Impression” garnered the most attention (not all positive).  From his painting and its title, the category of the “Impressionists” sprung, first as a critique, then as an identity, and now as a sacred honor.

"Sunrise, An Impression", Claude Monet
“Sunrise, An Impression” by Claude Monet

This creative exercise is inspired by Impressionism, and in particular by Monet’s wise words about looking and painting:

“When you go out to paint try to forget what object you have before you – a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it emerges as your own naive impression of the scene before you.” -Claude Monet

VIEWS FROM THE WINDOW a drawing and observing exercise

  1. Gather paper and markers (I’ve suggested some types below)
  2. Choose a window in your house with your favorite view
  3. Try sketching your impression of the view
  4. Remember to looking out the window more than you look down at your paper
  5. Do this whenever you have the chance, and at different times during the day
  6. Keep your drawings fast and loose
  7. Draw what you see, not what you think you see
  8. Share your drawings with #TCHimpressions or send them to thecreativehours@gmail.com

TIP: Resist the urge to name what you are drawing, hold your pen with a loose grip and most importantly: don’t judge! Just enjoy, observe and feel alive.


Further Reading and Supplies:

MONET, The Triumph of Impressionism Both an insightful biography, and a book of prints, this book shares the wonder of Claude Monet

 

 

IMPRESSIONISM, Reimagining Art  This beautiful book looks at Impressionism on a global scale, from its iconic French masterpieces to less familiar works by Scandinavian, German, British, and North American artists.

 

 

Tombow Dual Brush Pens I LOVE these pens.  Great for impressionistic and lush drawing styles.  This is a secondary color set, which I find beautiful, but there are also primary and portrait sets.

 

 

Strathmore Artist Tiles Bristol is a smooth and lovely surface for letting makers glide and play.  Square paper tiles are a nice proportion for quick impressions.

 

 

Being Willing To Be Silly: a matter of life or death

I am in the thick of it with The Creative Hours, and am loving the process of research and reflection. Nonetheless, all this deep thinking about creativity reminds me that it is essential to keep a sense of humor about the whole shebang.  On that note, I hope you enjoy Groucho Marx’s line from Animal Crackers as much as I do. I may adopt it as a motto for this blog:

“Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh… now you tell me what you know.” – Groucho Marx

Being willing to be silly is an essential ingredient to creative flow and the survival of an artistic soul. Making fun of oneself, turning reality on its head, and flirting with the lack of meaning is a way of keeping the blood flowing and the molecules dancing.  I’d go as far as to say that being at play is the opposite of deathly stasis.

Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor. – Stewart Brown, MD,  Psychiatrist

While play is a no laughing matter, it is conversely true that humor touches the very deepest of human truths. Richard Avedon reflects this in his SERIOUSLY beautiful portraits of iconic comedians.

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Groucho Marx by Richard Avedon
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Buster Keaton by Richard Avedon
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Charlie Chaplin by Richard Avedon

Further Reading and Supplies:

Richard Avedon Photographs Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946-2004 includes 125 reproductions of Avedon’s greatest work from the entire range of his oeuvre-including fashion photographs, reportage and portraits-and spans from his early Italian subjects of the 1940s to his 2004 portrait of the Icelandic pop star Bjork.

 

The Groucho Letters: from and to Groucho Marx   The Groucho Letters reveals one of the twentieth century’s greatest comedian’s private insights into show biz, politics, business, and, of course, his illustrious personal life.

 

 

Official Groucho Glasses. Get seriously silly, pronto!

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!