Archive for month: May, 2016

Living on the Fringe

Living on the fringe requires of the artist a great deal of discipline and strength to counter the chaos of public opinion, which can then become the catalyst to a downward spiral.

In a world of subjectivity we seek validation from the outside and when we don’t get it our entire persona can crumble in self-doubt.

Art is a gift, a voice to protect, but our need to reach out must be stronger than the voices emanating from the crowd, lest we be silenced forever.

“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking & pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.” [1]

Another version of that is: “What you think, you become” [2]

Does a monk require a diploma in monkhood to prove that he is, in fact, a monk?

I think not.

Debbie Millman’s words ring out like a war cry: “Imagine immensities…”[3]

We live our lives following that need to create…waking in the middle of the night with an idea; an idea that makes the ‘unknown known’.

In her letters to Sherwood Andersen, Georgia O’Keeffe explains that a work of art results from taking something one has perhaps not understood completely, something one has felt or experienced as our spirit travels the unknown and turning that emotion, that experience into something ‘known’.

She further defines the unknown as something that is so important to the artist that it must be investigated, whether consciously or not, it is something that must be done, ultimately resulting in a work of art. [4]

This is what gives every artist their identity, their form.

We all have different versions of the unknown.

Our individual spirits travel many lands as we build our castles in the sky, with integrity, whether we fail or succeed.

Our individual lives become our signature.

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself…. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.” Henry David Thoreau [5]
By Boky

1. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.019.than.html
2. http://fakebuddhaquotes.com/what-you-think-you-become/
3. https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/15/debbie-millman-look-both-ways-fail-safe/
4. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/08/georgia-okeeffe-sherwood-anderson-letters/
5. https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/07/12/thoreau-on-success/

Vocation and Courage

Picasso once said: “One must have the courage of one’s vocation and the courage to make a living from one’s vocation” [1]

While this sounds like great advice, how do we really know what our vocation is?

How can we be true to ourselves and really know what it is that we are meant to do?

As we try to find our purpose, the landscape is obscured by the set of rules handed down.

According to Parker J. Palmer, “There may be moments in life when we are so unformed that we need to use values like an exoskeleton to keep us from collapsing.” [2]

We need this exoskeleton,in the same way that our sculptures do when they are still in the wax.

Without it, they too would collapse on the way to the foundry.

Still, this foundation of standards with which we build our identity often means living someone else’s life and can cause us great damage.

Often we believe that listening to the words of wisdom from the outside world will lead us toward our true selves.

Those great forces of virtue will save us from our selves. But will they really?

“We listen for guidance everywhere except from within”. [3]

Wouldn’t it be better to listen to our inner voice?

Why must one’s vocation be a goal to be pursued?

That would be, in Palmer’s words: ‘violence in the name of vision’.

Following a checklist provided by society will never ring true and sincere.  We should not live by the standards that are imposed on us but by the standards that we cannot help but live by.

The calling from our inner world, the act of trusting and the courage to embrace, for better or for worse, who we really are, our identity.  Only this can lead us to our deepest and truest vocation.

After all, is it not our own life that we must live?

Are we that inadequate at living our own lives?

Where is the vortex between who we are and who we should be?

So we spend half our lives masking ourselves with the faces of others, building an acceptable exoskeleton, only to find that we were in there all along.

All we had to do was be confident in our strengths and in our weaknesses and be proud of it all, the whole package.

Authentic vocation is at the core of our inner self. It isn’t something to achieve but a gift that we always had. As Palmer puts it:

“Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be.” [4]

By Boky & Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/02/parker-palmer-let-your-life-speak/
  2. ibid
  3. ibid
  4. ibid

Art is a virus

According to Tolstoy, art was to be judged by its level of contagion; essentially art is a virus.

He said: “A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist.” [1]

The distance between our worlds is erased because that story; the one that is silently being told, is ‘our’ story.

This is the magic of art; when there is nothing between the heart of the viewer and the heart of the artist.

Tolstoy advocated that art was a human condition, a vehicle of empathy and communication, a “means of intercourse between man and man”. [2]

He said that art was based upon the idea that the observer can experience the same emotions as the artist (or even other viewers).

He termed this “infectiousness”.

If the artist could infect the viewer with the same emotions then it was to be defined as art.

He saw it as “a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.”[3]

Tolstoy argued that there were three conditions necessary; individuality, clearness and sincerity.

While uniqueness and clarity are important, it is the sincerity of the artist’s emotion that carries the most weight.

We recognize truthfulness.

Art is, furthermore, timeless, eternal.

Art is immortal.

Bridging together people, eras, cultures and lifetimes. [4]

Infectiousness creates these connections, allowing us to fall in love with a work of art created hundreds of years ago because we recognize the expressed emotion as if it had been our own to begin with!

This level of contagion is what we, as artists, strive for.

Reaching for your hearts with ours.

As Blake often says about his Spirit collection: “The tangible human form slowly disappears, making room for the ephemeral, the spiritual, and if I have succeeded as a sculptor, I will disappear as well, because it’s not about me, it is about you, the observer.”

By Boky & Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/09/09/leo-tolstoy-what-is-art-infectiousness/
  2. ibid
  3. ibid
  4. ibid

Multi Dimensional Dreaming

I’ve just heard a wonderfully inspiring TedTalk by Dan Pallotta in which he discusses our dreams and how we should “dare to dream” in more than one dimension. [1]

Needless to say, just that idea in itself is enough to send a sculptor running back to the studio!

He talks about the different dimensions such as scientific and technological progress, and about how far we’ve come.

We dream, make plans, strive and build our dreams while completely ignoring the other areas in our lives.

While shinning the spotlight on one dimension, we obscure the suffering that can come about from ignoring others.

It seems we have forgotten to look after ourselves, after our own dreams and after the dreams of those we love.

Do we dream the same dreams?

Will I share yours and will you share mine?

Somehow we are so obsessed with our goals that we sacrifice the emotional and human dimensions of our lives.

A ten year plan is a brilliant idea, in the words of Leonard Berstein: “Two things are necessary for great achievement: a plan and not quite enough time”[2] but not at the expense of our lives.

Emotional distance from each other and from ourselves, predisposes us to an endless abyss of loneliness that can be avoided.

It seems that in our rush to reach the end of the rainbow that we have labeled ‘our dream’, we completely pass each other by, like ships in the night.

We seem to just look through each other at times and in our blind race to the finish line we miss out on what is really important.

And why?

Because our biggest fear is “…that we will be denied the opportunity to fulfill our true potential, that we are born to dream and we might die without ever having the chance.” [3]

Our inner world and its landscape is a dimension that deserves the same attention and the same fervor as the rest of our goals and our rainbow will never make us happy if we cannot consider the other dimensions.

We all deserve a chance to build the happy dreams we’ve dared to dream, because it isn’t reserved for just the few.

It’s for anyone who has ever had a broken dream.

It’s for anyone who has the courage to accept that fear is human and that loving without limits can be the catalyst to transcending into a state of multi dimensional dreaming.

Compassion and humanity, humility and the courage to cry together, to love each other with all our hearts and be each other’s shelter from that deep existential fear because AMOR VINCIT OMNIA  (love conquers all).

In the end, it boils down to those concepts that we hold so close to our hearts: awareness, mindfulness and inner beauty.

By Boky & Blake

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_dream_we_haven_t_dared_to_dream

Passion, love and life

The idea that we die every night; that the person we were yesterday is gone, dead, is unsettling.

This idea, should somehow make us feel better about our mortality and the inevitable end to our glory days, since we always wake up again; a new and vibrant person ready for new adventures in this amazingly beautiful world! (Most days, anyway!)

Rilke suggested we befriend our mortality.

“I am not saying that we should love death, but rather that we should love life so generously, without picking and choosing, that we automatically include it (life’s other half) in our love.” [1]

I’m not so sure it works though!

Why can we not live in a state of delusive immortality?

Why should it even matter and why should we care?

In the end, the world, with all its museums, its art and all our friends and family, won’t exist once we are gone.

At least for us it won’t.

So why must we require special treatment?

As if we, as artists, have some god given right to leave something behind?

Like a messiah of sorts, we believe it to be our place to not go in silence.

As a result, we obsessively spend our days dreaming up ways of creating things, testing and failing, then trying again, until finally we are pleased with the result.

We deem it worthy of our legacy (the one we hope to leave behind when we finally check out!) and go to bronze!

At this point we drive the van, like maniacs (tempting fate and our mortality!), either all the way to our foundry in Bologna, or through the little, twisted roads to the foundry at Bar sur Loup.

What would be if we instead befriended our finitude, as Rilke suggested?

Would we live happier lives?

Would this bring us an awareness that results in savouring every moment?

Could we redeem ourselves? And if so, to what avail?

Would it make it a difference?

Would it matter?

We cannot prove the simultaneity of anything in reality and the causality of things is always completely relative.

The fact is that the past lives there, in the past, and stays there, while tomorrow’s impending sentence, that irremediable enigma is waiting, just there.

If we took a walk in the gardens with Rilke, we might understand what Elizabeth Alexander did after the loss of her beloved husband: “Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss.” [2]

Without love there is no loss.

I suppose it is true that tragedy begins and ends with love.

Alexander’s meditation on love reflects our story and I hope that of many others: “Each of us made it possible for the other. We got something done. Each believed in the other unsurpassingly.” [3]

Passion and love are life.

By Boky & Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/06/01/the-light-of-the-world-elizabeth-alexander-memoir/
  2. ibid
  3. ibid

The Muses must be crazy

From time to time, I find myself thinking that the Muses must be crazy!

How do certain works of contemporary art make it into museum collections?

Am I missing something? Perhaps I am.

It is at times like this when I delve into the academic world seeking to understand that missing link.

In Ancient Greece, ‘Mouseions’ were temples built for the Muses, who were obviously the goddesses or divinities of the arts and sciences.

J.V. Maranto explains that: “Supplicants asked the muses to keep watch over academics and grant ingenuity to those they deemed worthy.

The temples were filled with offerings of sculptures, mosaics, complex scientific apparatuses, poetic and literary inscriptions, and any other tribute that would demonstrate a mortal’s worthiness for divine inspiration.” [1]

This is where the word museum comes from.

Are we worthy of divine inspiration?

Would Ennigaldi-Nanna, the Mesopotamian Princess who curated the first museum in 530 BC, have considered us worthy of her collection?

Human nature makes it so that we like that which we recognize or understand.

This is where the scholars come in and make all the difference.

Sometimes we just don’t get it.

As we stand in front of a 6 foot steel cube, for example, we might have a hard time regarding it as a significant work of art because well, it’s a cube!

We’ve seen one before and it really doesn’t display any virtuosity or hidden philosophical insight or message, or does it?

It isn’t remarkable, or is it?

It isn’t until we notice its title Die (Tony Smith, 1968) that we begin to make associations such as one of a pair of dice or even our own mortality. (Not that playing dice could kill anyone!)

Smith remarked, “Six feet has a suggestion of being cooked. Six foot box. Six foot under.” [2]

The point is that we can allow our minds to wander and reach for ideas.

There is that interplay between title and object, where nothing is absolute.

It becomes an experience as the monumental cube occupies the space before us and alludes to so more than the eye can see.

The Muses grant ingenuity to us mere mortals so that we might inspire deeper appreciation and understanding.

Without art and without scholars the world would be reduced to a whirling vortex of emptiness, museums would be vacant and lifeless and the Muses then, really would go crazy!

By Boky & Blake

  1. http://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-do-we-have-museums-j-v-maranto
  2. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.127623.html
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