Fantasy and reality . . . are they really so different? Both are products of our own thinking, fears, and desire. The subtle difference boils down to audience. Reality is the act we play before our family, friends, and other people. Fantasy is the private movie that replays in the minds, shrouded in secrecy.
Monica D. MurgiaArt, creativity, and fashion
The interval between events is not insignificant. I’ve come to understand this over the years. Desire is often not enough to create something beautiful or meaningful. Looking back, I see how willful I used to be. I’d toil away at making drawings of people or landscapes. I’d fill sketchbooks to the brim, trying persistently to create a photographic drawing. Persistence can be good when it creates discipline. But too much persistence restrict creativity and freedom.
An Alleyway in Pennsylvania. March 2013.
Like so many other people, I wonder how I’ll every pay off my student loans. I criticize myself for not having understood what I was doing to my financial future at 22, when graduate school was so appealing and the economy was more stable. Thankfully, I have a wonderful job and a plan to fix the mistakes that I’ve made. But staying positive can be challenging. The smallest event can carry me far, far away on a trail of self-loathing and doubt.
Life is spontaneous. It happens by itself. This is one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. While it is good to make plans and set goals, it’s important to make time for life to unfold before you. This isn’t living life according to whim. There is more to spontaneity than caprice and disorder.
As an artist, I can tell you how this is true. I can’t tell you where my ideas come from. They happen spontaneously. It’s difficult for me to approach a canvas or piece of paper with an expectation. When I try to make something specific, it never seems to turn out right. So my approach has been to let the materials “speak” to me. I mix the paint right on the canvas. I see what shapes start to appear on their own.
I sprayed and sprayed several hued paints on this board. I noticed how the colors mixed together, how each can sprayed differently. The only method I had was that I would keep painting until it felt right. I did countless layers of paint. The yard was filled with a thick cloud of fumes that made me dizzy. I stopped and mixed some oil paint with stand oil and dripped it over the board. I started thrashing the paint brush wildly at the board, giggling and having fun at not caring what the outcome would be. I turned the board to let the paint drip from one end to the other. Then I alternated between layers of spray paint and oil paint. From the photos, you can see how wildly different the painting looked at each stage.
Suddenly, almost magically, I knew the painting was finished. There was no way for me to schedule the right amount of time. I just had to feel it. To me, painting is like playing a game. When we play games, we get most fascination out of games that combine skill and chance. Games like poker or bridge. You don’t feel completely at the mercy of chance, and you don’t feel completely at the mercy of skill. It’s exciting and fun to not know the predictable outcome. Order and randomness go together, creating surprise. That’s how I define spontaneity – the perfect harmony of order and randomness.
One of my favorite Buddhist philosophers is Alan Watts. He has a great recorded talk called The Art of the Controlled Accident. He consistently compares Buddhist philosophy to painting. Life should be lived in a manner like painting. You can’t have calculated expectations for everything in your life. You have to approach situations with an open mind, only to search for possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. Never force something. It will only elude you. Instead, take the approach of letting the beautiful things around you emerge on their own. You will be surprised – and happy.
If you liked this post, you should consider reading my previous posts:
I mentioned in my last post that I started a new job. Part of my training took me to Richmond. After work, I decided to roam around the city for a bit by myself. My only plan was to check out a few vintage stores, figuring that fashion would somehow lead me to an adventure. I hopped into the hotel shuttle bus and gave them the address to a local vintage retailer in Carytown.
I had no real desire to buy anything, but just wanted to walk around – absorb some of the local scenery during my short time in the city. Chatting with the driver, I looked out the window. We passed an old bus terminal that was absolutely irresistible to me. It was covered with hundreds of the most evocative, brightly hued art I’d seen. Set against the warm, sunny late afternoon the setting seemed dreamlike.
Cooing while trying to snap a few photos from the van, the driver sensed my enthusiasm. He didn’t really know what the site was, other than it was an old bus terminal. I asked him if we could take a quick detour and investigate the site.
Everywhere I looked was beautiful! The space has previously belonged to the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC). Built in 1902, the structure housed trollies and buses that were not in use or needed repair. The site was abandoned back in 2009. Residents were unhappy with the crumbling buildings. They pushed for a creative use of the space, hoping to install stores and restaurants to boost the local economy.
The city’s response was to create a Street Art Festival, inviting artists from around the world to create large scale murals. Since the time frame was limited, it became a hotbed of creativity. Artists were working side-by-side, helping and inspiring one another.
Hamilton Glass, a Richmon-based artist, likened the festival is like a jam session for artists:
“We feed off each other, he said about five hours into his mural. It’s great painting next to someone who’s being creative.“
I could have spent all day here! There was no evidence of any businesses within the compound. But there was a young couple walking around taking photos. They took a photo of me, which shows you the scale of the work. It’s really massive and overwhelming!
Like a kid in a candy store, I ran down the empty streets eagerly taking in as much art as I could. Every mural was so interesting and unique. Some were even 3-dimentional. One of my favorites was a blue wall filled with metal birds.
After closer inspection, the birds are decorated with names and poems. If you’re in Richmond, I highly recommend stopping by to see it for yourself: 2501 W. Cary St.
To see the rest of my photos from the Old GRTC Bus Terminal, follow me on Instagram!
When I enjoy the work of other artists, I’m curious as to what they are trying to express. Looking at art always makes me feel something. It stirs up my emotions and thoughts. So I’m eager to see if what I feel is what the artist was hoping to express.
Cosmos by Kazimir Malevich, 1917. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Russian abstract painter and costume designer Kazimir Malevich. His work really fascinated me, initially because his experience as a costume designer influenced his later path as a painter. So, I started to look at his artwork.
Mystical Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) by Kazimir Malevich, c. 1920-7. Image courtesy of Malevich Paintings.
Malevich is most known for starting the art movement Suprematism. He conceived the idea of Suprematism around 1913, which focuses on basic geometric forms painted in a limited range of colors. Malevich believed that the true power of art was it’s ability to evoke emotion in the viewer. By using simple geometric forms, there was no way for political or social meanings to be imparted on the work of art. I loved the ideas behind his work. He saw painting as a way to make people feel something that could not be manipulated or placed out of context.
Mystical Religious Rotation of Shapes by Kazimir Malevich. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
Lucky for me, Malevich wrote a manifesto on what his artwork was trying to make people feel. He traveled to Berlin in the 1920s to exhibit his work and network with the faculty at Bauhaus. (New to my site? You should read my previous posts on the Bauhaus.) His manifesto, The Non-Obective World, was published as book 11 in the series Die Gegenstandslose Welt. (A friend told me this title translates to something like “a spirit without products” or “the spirit of the abstract”)
NYPL had a copy of The Non-Objective World, and I’m reading it now. The introduction was really powerful. It explains that, according to Malevich, art is eternally powerful because it originates from a feeling. Artists are inspired to create something because of an almost mystical experience. The urge to make something and share it with others is what makes an art object beautiful.
He insisted that art and the feelings which generate it are more basic and meaningful than religious beliefs and political conceptions. Religions and the state, in the past, employed art as a means to further their aim. The usefulness of works of technology is of short-lived but art endures forever. If humanity is to achieve a real and absolute order this must be founded on eternal values, that is, on art.