On Seeing THE CREATIVE BRAIN

CreativeBrainThere’s nothing like a good documentary, and I ran across a winner on Netflix. The Creative Brain is written and presented by Dr. David Eagleman, whose twenty-plus years as a neuroscientist inspired this hour-long program. Watch The Creative Brain>>

Eagleman, who is also one of the authors of The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World, interviews actors and musicians, nanotechnologists and architects, to “unlock the secrets of creativity.” His findings are both fascinating and motivating to those of us who define ourselves as makers, artists, and creatives—or who simply want to make an impact…

Human beings are special
Unlike other animals, we can “disengage our instincts” to see beyond the usual uses of things. For example, we can turn off our automatic response to eat when we see food. All of the possibilities that we are able to see in the world are “the foundation of our creativity.”

Originality is “bunk”
One of Eagleman’s guests describes jazz as a “mutt.” In other words, “being original is not about generating something out of nothing.” I think of all of the teachers, muses, and artistic ancestors who prove this point in my life—all of the books read and movies watched and music enjoyed. The list goes on. As a result, my contributions are the sum of a lot of input from various sources. Any originality is born from my unique life experience.

Creativity requires intentionality
Eagleman notes that, despite our great creative potential, humans remain wired to take “the path of least resistance”—to do what is easy. This path is the arch enemy of creativity. Eagleman closes his presentation with three tips for fighting the urge to live and work the same way day after day; I invite you to watch the show for these inspiring insights!

The program also concludes with a profile on a fine-arts elementary school, how it was saved from closing and now thrives given how creativity is “at the heart of every subject.” It just so happens that my own daughter will soon start Kindergarten in a similar setting, and The Creative Brain further affirms that we made the right choice. I trust that her education will help her become successful, innovative, and creative—to grow into an accomplished artist, musician, nanotechnologist, architect, or whatever she dreams to be!

On Seeing SAINT JOHN’S POTTERY STUDIO

My fascination with the Saint John’s Pottery Studio began with “Clay, Wood, Fire, Spirit,” a documentary produced in 1996, but featured recently on TPT Twin Cities PBS. The film serves as a “video portrait” of Richard Bresnahan, a master potter and the studio’s artist-in-residence. Watch video>>

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The sales room offers an overwhelming array of pottery in various forms.

During a recent visit to the campus of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., I was able to swing by the studio to see it in the flesh. I was greeted by two young apprentrices hard at work at their wheels—barefoot, gooey with clay, and engrossed in the forming of their signature vessels. I took in the gallery walls filled with numerous pieces of pottery in various forms: platters, bowls, vases, candlesticks, and cups. And I marveled at the hundreds of works for sale in a side room. Oh, to imagine the people-hours invested in the throwing and glazing and firing of all that I saw!

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Guests of the studio are invited to enjoy some tea at the “irori,” a traditional Japanese hearth.

Perhaps the biggest impression the studio made on me was its air of hospitality. The apprentices were quick to offer a formal tour, which I look forward to taking them up on another day. I was offered a seat at the studio’s “irori,” a traditional Japanese hearth, for a cup of green tea and conversation. Smiles and warm attention and a sense of home—these qualities definitely enhanced my appreciation of the art around me and, of course, the people who make it.

The experience got me to thinking… How can I infuse some hospitality into my own art making and sharing? What part does environment play in the spirit of my work? These are good—and fun—questions to ponder.  I’m eager to keep my eyes and ears open for more inspiration.

An Artist’s Bookshelf – May 2018

img_1248This month’s reads are the “next chapters,” so to speak, of other works I’ve read or seen recently. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf in May…

Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel by Iris Barrel Apfel & Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Barrel Apfel
When I was a relatively new Netflix subscriber, I came across the documentary “Iris” about a spicy older woman with colorful clothes and accessories from all over the world. She has a magical knack for layering, be it bangle upon bangle, or feathers upon hound’s tooth, or chunky chain link necklaces upon 19th Century vestments. It’s fun to page through these two biographies by Iris Apfel’s own hand and really study her sense of style and talents in color and texture. A truly unique brand of artist!

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this book suggestion by my local library is based on a painting that I remember from the “Modern Art & Ideas” Coursera course I finished last month. The author was inspired by “Christina’s World,” a piece by Andrew Wyeth; Baker Kline recreates the life of Christina Olson who experienced the physical limitations brought on by polio. The book reminds me of one of my favorites from years ago—Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland—that revolves around one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. Such writings further prove that creativity begets creativity!

Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration by Working Artists by Ricë Freeman-Zachary
I so enjoyed reading Freeman-Zachary’s Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art in March that I picked up another one of her books! Once again, the author showcases the stories and artwork of all kinds of artists and offers exercises that can help the rest of us to collect ideas and to pursue projects, too. So far, I really like the simple tip of collecting paint-sample cards and mixing them together to test different combinations of colors. I’m totally going to do this!