I moderated the panel "Why do Artists Make Art?" last week. It was crowded, standing room only in fact. I had an interesting group on my panel, painters, a photographer, a printmaker, and a psychiatrist who is now retired and making art. She was a lovely little person, very animated- and had some interesting things to say about her research into where creativity resides in the brain. Her opinion is that some people have no creativity at all, and their brains don't light up in the creativity spot. This area is the same one that causes self-criticism, and one of the audience members asked if there were meds to turn that off. I'm not doing justice to the points she made, but I disagree that some people have no creativity. I think everyone does, but we're not trained to access it because we're taught to follow what has been set out for us and what is the tried and true path. That's why Frost could write "The Road not Taken."
Then there's Joseph Campbell and his ideas about mythology and heroism. I think Rumi and Joseph Campbell are the two most misunderstood, or rather misquoted, writers and thinkers. Campbell is quoted as saying Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls. It's usually shortened to Follow Your Bliss. Lotta people doing that here. I read that Campbell was a little fed up with all the bliss followers and at one point changed the quote to Follow your blisters. That might be apocryphal.
Since the exhibition that I'm in, which prompted the panel, is dedicated to Jung's Red Book, I looked up what he had to say about art and artists. Here is a quote:
The biographies of great artists make it abundantly clear that the creative urge is often so imperious that it battens on their humanity and yokes everything to the service of the work, even at the cost of health and ordinary human happiness. The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself, quite regardless of the personal fate of the man who is its vehicle [emphasis mine.]
I don't know what to make of this. That the neurotic, poorly adjusted artist can't help but toil away in the studio, giving the work of art a way out and onto the canvas? It sounds pretty depressing to be a vehicle for something that was going to show up somehow anyway. I really dislike this concept, because for one thing it confirms peoples' opinions that artists are driven and crazed. Well maybe I'm overstating what Jung said. But people still think that art springs from some mysterious inner force, and that only the chosen few can create it. We're in the post-modern, pluralistic 21st century. Those ideas are so old school.