Thursday, April 03, 2008
The Courage to Create
Rollo May proposes the theory that, "Creativity occurs in an act of encounter and is to be understood with this encounter as its center." The encounter is between the artist and the objective reality of what she is observing. The intensity of the encounter between artist and her world calls forth the creative act of bringing into being that which does not exist- the painting, the poem, etc.
The artist, by herself, does not conjure up the art, but rather is infused with the experience of relating to her outside world. This state, fueled by the unconscious symbols and myths about her place in that world that compel her to create being from non-being. I would also argue there is also a connection that needs to be explored by the artist--between the world of the present and the past, the living and the spirit world, the world of ancestry, the well of souls in which the heart of the collective unconscious resides. “Creative courage... is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.”
It's May’s contention that creativity is a courageous act because an authentic act of creation takes an intensity of commitment and a deep quality of passion. This is because the artist is moving into uncharted territory in order to sit with the deeper recesses of the psyche, the realm of chaos and anxiety. “This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness."
I've frequently felt that anxiety, that 'dis-ease.' I spent many years trying to out that blot that feeling, along with a host of others, via alcohol and other drugs. It's is no surprise to me that I could only fully actualize my creative self as a feature of sobriety. I think about the real lives of alcohol-ridden, doomed drug-addict, art world wunderkind, and wonder what wellsprings were sealed up in order to not feel a psychic pain to much to bear. Artists delve into the substance their own existence, but also the deeper collective unconscious of the society that they inhabit. Living, resonant art informs this collective unconscious and also shapes it in a new way and can be a touchstone for how a society views itself. Rigid societies afraid of hidden truths repress art; requiring artists to understand that courage is required, and not back away in the face of opposition.
I believe that art making is an act of survival and resistance. During the periods of my life when the creativity has waned and it's felt like the demands of the outside world have swallowed me up, I have definitely felt depressed.The act of creativity fights that depression and more importantly, transforms it into something else, something viable. In what I hope is my best work, that idea of Every/Mujer resisting outside control, outside definition is communicated as well.
For work of the deepest kind to to emerge, I have to look as clear-eyed as I can at losses on the personal level, as well as those with larger social causes. As uncomfortable as that may be, it's also becomes a motivator, a source of knowledge, a driving engine. Joy is as well, by it is joy that results from emergence, a flinty and hard-won joy. Looking at the scope of the themes that pull at me again and again, I can see the arc of trauma, its aftermath and reemergence. As I continue to think about this, imagery from forensic science and pathology come to mind. The initial part of the process is the point of entry, where the bullet entered. Mid process is all about ballistics and trajectory, and the last, is exit wound and the healing.