"The soul, in patches, shapes the tattoo, the set of crossed lines drawing a force-field: the space occupied by the formidable pressure of the soul in its efforts to erase gently the shadows of the body, and the major entrenchments of the body to resist this effort. On the skin, soul and object are neighbors. [...]
The ecstatic transformation, the loss of the body into the soul, removes the tattoo."
- Michel Serres, The Five Senses (p. 25)
Cropped detail of intaglio print, "Tracings", Amanda Clyne
"At year’s end you should
look back at your thoughts and opinions twelve months before and find
them quaint. If not, you probably didn’t read or explore or work hard
enough." -- Chris Blattman
I want this year to bring a lot of change for me and my work, and this seems the perfect quote to launch this pursuit. Here are a few of the things I'm doing to get me started:
Looking for ways to get out of Toronto for awhile. I'm currently in Europe withdrawal, but New York is never a bad idea, and I've even been thinking epic road trip too.
Working in other media. I particularly want to explore works on paper. I need to improve my drawing skills, and I'm dying to play around with inks and watercolors (could be wimpy, but I promise it won't be). Further experiments with photography are also on the horizon.
Finding inspiration in new sources. I've been pretty obsessed with the history of art this past year, and I'm ready to delve deeper into my interest in fashion as well as look for totally new sources of inspiration that I can't even imagine right now. Things could get crazy.
I'll return to this blog 12 months from now, and we'll see how far I've come.
"...having passion is just understanding what your purpose in life is."
-- Dan McLaughlin
I came across this video today about this guy Dan who quit his job to prove that one can master any skill if they put in the requisite time, ie. 10,000 hours. I remember reading about this 10,000 hour milestone to mastery in Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers", and I remember finding the idea reassuring after I crazily quit my lucrative job as a lawyer to try to be an artist. If I just put in the time, it must be possible. 10,000 hours? Then here goes nothing.
Well, it appears this guy Dan is documenting every hour of his efforts to master golf in a project called "The Dan Plan". Perhaps I should have had more foresight and documented "The Amanda Plan" back at the beginning when I first quit my job. And isn't the progression of learning art more interesting than learning golf? I'm just saying. Anyway, I relate to his story a lot, and I hope that his hypothesis that anyone can do anything if they just put in the time is true (for him as well as for me). Although I sense a few glitches in his theory (everything doesn't just boil down to skill, does it?).
At the end of this video, the interviewer asks Dan whether the passion required to be so driven and focused so as to spend 10,000 hours on one endeavor might just be genetic. I love his response:
"How do you prove whether or not someone is born with passion? I mean is that an innate ability or something that's actually, just for some unknown reason, some people are born with passion and some people are just passionless? I don't really agree with that. I think that as long as anybody finds whatever it is in life that they really love then they'll become obsessed and they'll just want to do that and nothing will get in their way. So, perhaps having passion is just understanding what your purpose in life is."
"I would feel very badly for someone who is so boring that they can't go to a coffee shop once a day and for two minutes say something that is interesting." - Seth Godin
This blog post by Seth Godin has got me inspired to post daily blogs again. And I think his point on having something interesting to say each day applies just as much to visual artists as to writers. Create a new image a day?
Here is an excerpt from a recent interview I found on YouTube with Arnold Glimcher, the former president of the Pace Gallery in New York, discussing the work of Louise Nevelson:
"What interests me is concepts, is the cognitive process of art. And that process is perception. How is the artist’s perception unique? I don’t think that when you see the most extravagant, extraordinary exhibition of Louise Nevelson’s work, you’re really seeing the art. These are maps or charts or clues to the process that makes the art. The art is Nevelson’s perception of the world. The art is happening in Nevelson’s head. These [the sculptures] are the maps to that art. And I believe it’s true of any artist."
A few recent quotes on how we determine the value of art:
"Perhaps the importance that we must attach to the achievement of an artist or a group of artists may properly be measured by the answer to the following question: Have they so wrought that it will be possible henceforth, for those who follow, ever again to act as if they had not existed?" (Walter Sickert, 1910)
"There is a widespread belief, not only among the general public but even among many art scholars, that artistic success can be produced by persuasive critics, dealers, or curators. In the short run, there is little question that prominent critics and dealers can gain considerable attention for an artist's work. It is equally clear, however, that unless this attention is eventually transformed into influence on other artists, it cannot gain that artist an important place in art history in the long run." (David Galenson, Old Masters and Young Geniuses, 2006, p. 3)
And some thoughts on the matter by the ever-quotable Chuck Close:
A few not-so-random quotes from Anthony Storr's book "Solitude":
"Can you imagine what it is like being a prisoner for life, your dreams turn into nightmares and your castles to ashes, all you think about is fantasy and in the end you turn your back on reality and live in a contorted world of make-believe, you refuse to accept the rules of fellow-mortals and make ones that will fit in with your own little world, there is no daylight in this world of the 'lifer', it is all darkness, and it is in this darkness that we find peace and the ability to live in a world of our own, a world of make-believe."(Storr, p. 56, quote by a prisoner interviewed by Stanley Cohen and Laurie Taylor for their book Psychological Survival)
"...that hunger of imagination which preys incessantly upon life, and must be always appeased by some enjoyment. Those who have already all that they can enjoy must enlarge their desires."(Storr, p. 63, quote by Samuel Johnson)
"To allow his genius to become apparent to himself it was necessary that he should dare to give up aiming to please. Cut off from everyone by deafness he discovered the vulnerability of the spectator, he realized that the painter has only to struggle with himself and he will come, sooner or later, the conqueror of all." (Storr, p. 53, quote by André Malraux regarding Goya)
An extended passage from Lee Siegel's collection of essays entitled "Falling Upwards" - this passage is from an essay reflecting on the work of novelist Saul Bellow (but I'm not posting this because of an interest in Saul Bellow...):
"The world's siren song, its sweetness and strangeness, is the ordeal of Bellow's heroes. Life fills them with such a sense of promise and beauty that, in the end, they turn inward as a way to escape the inevitable disappointments that plague passionately receptive natures.
Men of most powerful appetite have always been the ones to doubt reality the most" says the African King Dahfu to Henderson in Henderson the Rain King. These life-famished figures are contemporary; they cannot, Dahfu continues "bear that hopes should turn to misery, and loves to hatreds and deaths and silences, and so on." They are contemporary in precisely this sense: the more their desires expand, the further reality recedes.
So Bellow's heroes leap away from disappointing reality into ideas, and then away from insufficient ideas into sex, and away from sex into fantasy, and back to culture, and then back to experience - and on and on, in an infinite regression of distancing from the episodes in life that fall short of life's promise. They must protect their psyches from the insult of inadequate conditions. This psychoacrobatic motion is anarchic, like laughter; and it reproduces the odyssey of Mozart's music, which modulates from earthy to sky to the far end of heaven and back to earth.
Bellow's heroes are in flight from reality to the heart of existence. They flee from life for love of life. Henderson is both strengthened and harried by a small persistent voice deep inside him that repeats, "I want I want I want." There is something terrible about these protagonists who are so consumed with desire. They burn life away with the intensity of their wanting, feeling, thinking, and almost always find themselves alone, barely alive, far away from other people. It is as if their defeat by desire were also the fulfillment of their desire. A wish for deprivation lurks in the depths of their voracity."