Posts Tagged 'The New Yorker'

on creativity and reinvention

Out of laziness and a coming sickness, I stayed in my room last night, a Friday night, and read almost the entire issue of this week’s The New Yorker. Since subscribing to the New Yorker this summer, I’ve become much more informed I think or at least I pretend to be. I can tell you about V.S. Naipul (a crazy writer with a confusing background), an organic Chinese restaurant in Nanjing, the history of universal healthcare in Europe (and why it is ridiculous that we don’t have it). The New Yorker political writing is like news, but with more research, more depth, opinion and humour. But what I love in the magazine is its essays on people who I usually have never of.

Last night, that person was George Balachine, a Russian choreographer. Besides Balachine’s dance, he was famous for his sayings like “There are no mothers-in-law in ballet” and equally famous for his re-quotes “I am not a man, but a cloud in trousers” (what?) which he stole from some Russian poet. His knack for stealing quotes wasn’t a reflection on his own lack of a words, but his perception of creation as a sort of reinvention. An original Balachine quote: “If you like something of someone else’s, why not take it? The important thing is that it seem natural and fit in.

It reminds me of McGiff in every art class, telling us to walk around and steal from our classmates whether their technique, color, idea, any small tidbit we wanted we should take away. This is all good and nice, but the real question is when does it “seem natural and fit in”? A Goethe quote: “Everything has been thought of before; the task is to think of it again” and to that I would add “at the right time”. It’s figuring out which kind of roof your design really calls for after you spend an hour bookmarking 30 pages in 5 different books. That is the hard part. It is not difficult to find something I love, but oh so challenging to make it work for me.

As the spring studio looms ahead, the questions and insecurities about my own creativity come back again. It’s strange to me that in art major senior year, I was always convinced that I could eventually execute my idea however imperfectly, as long as I spent enough time adding layers of paint. But in studio now, I don’t have that kind of confidence which makes every project feel like the coin toss whether I’ll get it right or wrong.

A final quote from Walton Ford, a watercolorist, also profiled in this week’s New Yorker. “I hope I’m still going to do something more interesting than I do now. I feel like, right now, I am an interesting minor artist, a footnote in art history, you know? I’ve got this territory that’s my own…..but I’m not pushing the language of making pictures in any new direction. There’s nothing I’m doing that wasn’t done better by Gericualt. But maybe that will change. Anyway, I’m not there yet“.

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