ARTQUEST ESSAY FIVE – Beginning Mind Reading
Perhaps one of the reasons we feel compelled to do art is because it allows us to tell our stories – the narratives that play out inside of our head, heart and soul. Not in the traditional, storyteller mode of relating past cultural and societal fables to the entranced audience, but through a more symbolic type of narrative that is focused upon our own ethos. It is a story drawn from the myth and mist of our mind and presented by means of abstract symbol and analogy, to suggest insight, hint at awareness and help us to be aware of a higher level of understanding. Often it is a story more intended for the teller than for the listener. Of course, one might be able to make the same statement about most works of art.
Perhaps one aspect of our need to communicate what we feel and wonder about is the fantastic proliferation of personal blogs. There seem to be an endless number of websites where people talk about their day, their spouse, their job, their kids, their hopes and fears, their illness or infirmity and any aspect of themselves that is possible to conjure up. If you want to include programs like Twitter, we also know that they have just lit a cigarette, filed their nails or had a twinge of indigestion. While these tell-all-tales are posted on the Internet, and theoretically available to the entire connected word, one suspects that the primary audience is the poster and three or four friends or associates. Perhaps by revealing myself, I can better understand myself.
While most of these blog posting are quite detailed, they well may be motivated by some of the same needs that compel others of us to want to produce art. Blogs tend to be linear, specific and detailed (even though many choose to partially conceal their identity), while art is abstract, and symbolic, and usually cannot be “read” in a way that give answers (remember, the function of art is to ask, not answer).
For the artist, it is not a direct narrative with a beginning and end, but much more like the non-linear images of our nighttime dreams. It may well have an obvious message or conclusion, but the path it follows is circuitous and disconnected, there is no map and the trail is not marked or blazed.
These internal myths, fables and sagas that our mind reveals to us in those illuminating bursts of meaning, causation, wonder and insight we can call creative revelation. Creativity on its own can mean merely unique or clever, as coming up with a “creative” use for old socks or milk jugs, but artistic creativity, born of our inner being and soul, is always anchored in idea and meaning, and its message and impact is far more powerful. It is the difference between clever and profound.
Surprisingly to most, the problem the prospective artist faces isn’t learning how to have moments of insight or inspiration. They are there, in everyone. The difficulty is in being willing to acknowledge them as valuable, and then allowing them to guide and inspire you in your artistic work.
The above paragraph contains one of the most important concepts that I feel I have to offer. What we seek as artists is not hidden, it is not lacking in our psyche and it is not lost. We already own it, but more often than not, we don’t recognize it, and even if we do, we do not place much value upon it.
The next few essays will be a primer on basic mind reading, not to learn the secrets others are concealing, but to learn to find the inspiration and ideas within our own being. People always ask artists “Where do you get all of your ideas?” You don’t have to get them, they are already there.
As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts.