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ART’clectic Artisans Market coming to Jacksonville in December

Art'clectic December Artist and Artisan Holiday Market in Jacksonville Oregon Flyer

I Remember Better When I Paint

Editor’s Note: As an advocate for the arts, it’s important to me that the power of the arts for healing gets the attention it deserves. I have not seen this documentary (though it is not newly released), but it was recommended to me by a fan of one of my clients. The reviews are so impressive, and the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s is such a concern for so many, that I wanted to share it with you.

I Remember Better When I Paint, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease. A film by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, presented by French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation. Among those who are featured are noted doctors and Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s.

The Hilgos Foundation’s mission is to support and encourage the ongoing process of artistic creation with people who have memory problems and/or Alzheimer’s and who require assistance in creating art that is meaningful and enriching. The Hilgos Foundation was created in memory of Hilda Gorenstein, an accomplished painter whose career spanned 75 years. She died at age 93 and left behind her the legacy of an inspired artistic life. Choosing to call herself Hilgos, Ms. Gorenstein was known for her beautiful marine paintings, which are now in collections all over the world. She was such a skillful painter of water vessels she was chosen to paint an enormous mural depicting the history of the U.S. Navy for Chicago’s Century of Progress celebration in 1933. She completed hundreds of paintings in the last three years of her life, while she struggled with profound memory loss. The vestiges of her early, masterful renderings of waves, birds, and boats remain, but have been transformed into a new system of spontaneous, personal gestures, bordering on the abstract. The sophisticated color choices and compositions of these late works reveal how sharp her artistic eye remained up until the very end of her life.

The Hilgos Award provides student funding at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to support and encourage the ongoing process of artistic creation. The award was established by family and friends in memory of the artist Hilgos, who studied at the Chicago Art Institute as a young woman, graduated in the 1920s, and became a well respected painter and sculptor, specializing in marine themes. Hilgos painted well into her 90’s. She returned to painting with several Art Institute students even after suffering memory loss, which almost forced her to stop painting. An award has been created in her spirit and memory at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

See a gallery of Hilgos’ watercolors at the Hilgos Foundation website for inspiration and hope for those who struggle with, or who are caring for a loved one who struggles with, Alzheimer’s and/or memory loss.

The website has a link to an article with fascinating insights on the connection between art and a brain failing due to Alzheimer’s, which you can access directly here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/creative-aging-the-emergence-of-artistic-talents/266799/

I Remember Better When I Paint has been released as part of a DVD package which includes the documentary as well as a series of short supplemental films that further highlight special programs and flesh out the how-tos of organizing an outing, a creative workshop or recreating social bonds between people with Alzheimer’s and their families.

To buy a copy of the DVD package: http://www.amazon.com/REMEMBER-BETTER-WHEN-PAINT/dp/B003UN4CIA

Learn more and read reviews and comments on the film’s website: http://irememberbetterwhenipaint.wordpress.com/about/

Be sure to check out the blog – this film is still touring 4 years after its initial release, and most screenings are free!

Bachelard and Braque on metamorphosis

Still Life with Lemons, George Braque

Over the past year, more and more, I’ve been involuntarily daydreaming as I paint, in a way that reminds me of what Gaston Bachelard talks about in The Poetics of Space. It’s an idiosyncratic book, beautifully evocative and almost impossible to classify, though it’s often considered a work of philosophy because of its approach to something that sounds absurdly limited: what happens psychologically and emotionally when a person encounters certain kinds of space. It explores how people experience rooms, forests, shells, corners, closets, drawers—and how different the shapes and volumes of these spaces evoke entirely different kinds of dreams. For him, various environments relate in specific ways to the human body and the way people actually inhabit or employ different spaces comes to take on multiple meanings. For him, space is essentially a state of mind rather than the staging area for travel and physical measurement. As Bachelard says in his introduction, the phenomenological approach of the book requires the reader to simply pay attention to how the experience of space can enlarge an individual’s receptivity to new imagery. He puts aside any inherited philosophical or psychological theories and simply examines what’s happening, in human terms, by paying attention to this own encounters with space and how it opens up a state of reverie, a daydream. Different shapes and sizes of space unlock different kinds of dreaming, a treasury of moods, feelings, and mental images. I think what he’s actually doing is elucidating how poetry and painting evoke a sense of a world.

 

As you read the book it inspires the kind of daydreaming he refers to with a particular adjective—oneiric. (It just means dreamlike.) The prose of the book itself draws you into the state Shelley referred to as the gently fading cinder in a fireplace, glowing, simmering but not really lit up with rational consciousness. In considering the different dream states evoked by a three-story house rather than a four-story one, Bachelard says, “Dreams of stairs have often been encountered in psychoanalysis. But since it requires an all-inclusive symbolism to determine its interpretations, psychoanalysis has paid little attention to the complexity of mixed reverie and memory.” Paying attention to this “mix of reverie and memory” is what Bachelard tries to do in his book, without trying to fit her insights into some particular kind of system. “The poetic daydream, which creates symbols, confers upon our intimate moments an activity that is poly-symbolic.” By symbols I think he means fertile images, metaphors or visual forms that offer a kind of “poly-symbolic” language whose exact meaning can’t be pinned down. An image of stairs comes laden with suggestions of multiple different memories and experiences. The power of its “meaning” is that it evokes an emotional and mental state rather than a proposition that can be put to use.

 

This was the long way to go to double back to a notion that got me started. I wanted to describe how, while I paint now, certain forms I’m depicting remind me of more than the object I’m trying to represent. It’s similar to what Bachelard was trying to get at—how one experience can seem to embody other kinds of experience—and Braque refers to it, in his journals, as “metamorphosis”. I have Braque’s journals somewhere, but can’t lay my hand on the book right now, lost no doubt in a particularly non-oneiric corner of a bookshelf somewhere in my studio. So I’ll quote him via John Richardson’s 1961 essay on Braque:

 

‘The only valid thing in art is that which cannot he explained,” I once wrote. I still feel this very strongly. To explain away the mystery of a great painting — if such a feat were possible — would do irreparable harm . . . whenever you explain or define something you substitute the explanation or the definition for the real thing. There are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work which even I do not understand, nor do I try to do so. Why bother? The more one probes, the more one deepens the mystery; it’s always out of reach. Mysteries have to be respected if they are to retain their power. If there is no mystery then there is no poetry, the quality I value above all else in art. What do I mean by poetry? It is to a painting what life is to man. But don’t ask me to define it; it is something that each artist has to discover for himself through his own intuition. For me it is a matter of harmony, of rapports, of rhythm and — most important for my own work — of ‘metamorphosis’. I will try to explain what I mean by ‘metamorphosis”. For me no object can be tied down to any one sort of reality. A stone may be part of a wall, a piece of sculpture, a lethal weapon, a pebble on a beach or anything else you like, just as this file in my hand can be metamorphosed into a shoe-horn or a spoon, according to the way in which I use it. The first time the importance of this phenomenon struck me was in the trenches during the first World War when my batman turned a bucket into a brazier by poking a few holes in it with his bayonet and filling it with coke. For me this commonplace incident had a poetic significance; I began to see things in a new way.

 

When you ask me whether a particular form in one of my paintings depicts a woman’s head, a fish, a vase, a bird or all four at once, I cannot give you a categorical answer, for this ‘metamorphic” confusion is fundamental to the poetry. It is all the same to me whether a form represents a different thing to different people or many things at the same time or even nothing at all: it might be no more than an accident or a ‘rhyme” — a pictorial ‘rhyme” by the way, can have all sorts of unexpected consequences, can change the whole meaning of a picture – –

 

You see, I have made a great discovery: I no longer believe in anything. Objects do not exist for me in so far as a rapport exists between them and between them and myself. In other words, it is not the objects that matter to me but what is in between them; it is this ‘in-between’ that is the real subject of my painting. When one reaches this state of harmony between things and oneself, one reaches . . . what I can only describe as a state of perfect freedom and peace — which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation.

 

 

I often think about these comments from Braque about his abstractions. More and more, I see different, non-literal forms in the shapes I paint. As I capture the look of something quite ordinary and commonplace, I often find myself in other places and times. A pair of white begonia blossoms could pass for cloud formations I’ve seen at 20,000 feet in the air. As I paint it, a cow skull feels like an enormous rock formation, eroded by wind, with cracked cavern walls, something it would take a day for a tiny man to scale and explore. The pattern of light reflecting from the surface and inside a jelly bean looks like a peach-colored moonlit night—my light source, reflected from the candy’s curved surface is a tiny moon peering between sheets and billows of apricot-colored mist. Things are what they are, and many other things, all at one.

 

Body of work

A three-part show about the human and animal body (heads, arms and legs, and skulls) opened at Manifest–I wrote about it two posts ago–and this remarkable gallery in Cincinnati drew 293 people to the reception. (The email from Manifest to participants was specific about the number, didn’t round it up to “around 300″, which is testimony to the integrity of this gallery and its programs.) Even without the upward rounding, that’s quite a turnout, for any gallery, anywhere. I couldn’t be happier to have a painting in the show, and I have pictures of how it looks (above, for example) thanks to the team at Manifest, who sent shots to all the artists chosen for the shows.

Also, the program’s 4th International Painting Annual has just been published (my work was included in it as well) and will soon be available for purchase here. About the annual, from the Manifest website:

about the INPA 4

For the INPA 4 Manifest received 1560 submissions from 563 artists. The publication will include 125 works by 92 artists. Essays by Philip Gerstein and Laura Grothaus will also be included.

Eleven professional and academic advisors qualified in the fields of art, design, criticism, and art history juried the fourth International Painting Annual. The process of selection was by anonymous blind jury, with each jury member assigning a quality rating for artistic merit to each work submitted. The entries receiving the highest average combined score are included in this publication.

How do people get new ideas?

On Creativity by Isaac Asimov

A recently discovered essay by the great SF writer written back in 1959, giving advice to a think tank working on missile defense projects: “How do people get new ideas?”

ON CREATIVITY

How do people get new ideas?

Presumably, the process of creativity, whatever it is, is essentially the same in all its branches and varieties, so that the evolution of a new art form, a new gadget, a new scientific principle, all involve common factors. We are most interested in the “creation” of a new scientific principle or a new application of an old one, but we can be general here.

One way of investigating the problem is to consider the great ideas of the past and see just how they were generated. Unfortunately, the method of generation is never clear even to the “generators” themselves.

But what if the same earth-shaking idea occurred to two men, simultaneously and independently? Perhaps, the common factors involved would be illuminating. Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

There is a great deal in common there. Both traveled to far places, observing strange species of plants and animals and the manner in which they varied from place to place. Both were keenly interested in finding an explanation for this, and both failed until each happened to read Malthus’s “Essay on Population.”

Both then saw how the notion of overpopulation and weeding out (which Malthus had applied to human beings) would fit into the doctrine of evolution by natural selection (if applied to species generally).

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

Undoubtedly in the first half of the 19th century, a great many naturalists had studied the manner in which species were differentiated among themselves. A great many people had read Malthus. Perhaps some both studied species and read Malthus. But what you needed was someone who studied species, read Malthus, and had the ability to make a cross-connection.

That is the crucial point that is the rare characteristic that must be found. Once the cross-connection is made, it becomes obvious. Thomas H. Huxley is supposed to have exclaimed after reading On the Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of this.”

But why didn’t he think of it? The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”

It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun, or that objects required a force to stop them when in motion, instead of a force to keep them moving, and so on.

A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.

Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

Once you have the people you want, the next question is: Do you want to bring them together so that they may discuss the problem mutually, or should you inform each of the problem and allow them to work in isolation?

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

Nevertheless, a meeting of such people may be desirable for reasons other than the act of creation itself.

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon.

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

But how to persuade creative people to do so? First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.

If a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. The unsympathetic individual may be a gold mine of information, but the harm he does will more than compensate for that. It seems necessary to me, then, that all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.

If a single individual present has a much greater reputation than the others, or is more articulate, or has a distinctly more commanding personality, he may well take over the conference and reduce the rest to little more than passive obedience. The individual may himself be extremely useful, but he might as well be put to work solo, for he is neutralizing the rest.

The optimum number of the group would probably not be very high. I should guess that no more than five would be wanted. A larger group might have a larger total supply of information, but there would be the tension of waiting to speak, which can be very frustrating. It would probably be better to have a number of sessions at which the people attending would vary, rather than one session including them all. (This would involve a certain repetition, but even repetition is not in itself undesirable. It is not what people say at these conferences, but what they inspire in each other later on.)

For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room.

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.

To feel guilty because one has not earned one’s salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either.

Yet your company is conducting this cerebration program on government money. To think of congressmen or the general public hearing about scientists fooling around, boondoggling, telling dirty jokes, perhaps, at government expense, is to break into a cold sweat. In fact, the average scientist has enough public conscience not to want to feel he is doing this even if no one finds out.

I would suggest that members at a cerebration session be given sinecure tasks to do—short reports to write, or summaries of their conclusions, or brief answers to suggested problems—and be paid for that; the payment being the fee that would ordinarily be paid for the cerebration session. The cerebration session would then be officially unpaid-for and that, too, would allow considerable relaxation.

I do not think that cerebration sessions can be left unguided. There must be someone in charge who plays a role equivalent to that of a psychoanalyst. A psychoanalyst, as I understand it, by asking the right questions (and except for that interfering as little as possible), gets the patient himself to discuss his past life in such a way as to elicit new understanding of it in his own eyes.

In the same way, a session-arbiter will have to sit there, stirring up the animals, asking the shrewd question, making the necessary comment, bringing them gently back to the point. Since the arbiter will not know which question is shrewd, which comment necessary, and what the point is, his will not be an easy job.

As for “gadgets” designed to elicit creativity, I think these should arise out of the bull sessions themselves. If thoroughly relaxed, free of responsibility, discussing something of interest, and being by nature unconventional, the participants themselves will create devices to stimulate discussion.

 

New Exhibits Scheduled At RCC Art Galleries

GRANTS PASS — Two new exhibits go on display in October, November, and December at the Rogue Community College Firehouse Gallery and Wiseman Gallery.

“Presence and Past,” an exhibit by Braeden Cox, will be on display October 28 to November 21 at the Firehouse Gallery, located in RCC Historic City Hall at the corner of Fourth and H streets. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Cox, a Portland artist, presents a series of charcoal and ink drawings that use abstract gestural marks to suggest geological, botanical and structural forms.

Mixed media works by RCC art instructor Pat Enos will also be on display in the Firehouse Gallery Community Exhibits Room.

A First Friday reception is scheduled 5:30to 8:30 p.m. on November 7.

In the Wiseman Gallery, which is located on the RCC Redwood Campus, “The Subject is War” will be on display from November 5 through December 10. This juried exhibit features war-themed work created by over 35 artists from all over the nation.

Located at 3345 Redwood Hwy., the Wiseman Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

For more information on either exhibit, call Heather Green at 541-956-7241 or email her at hgreen@roguecc.edu.

SCA Participant: Artivism and the “Aha” Moment

Think back to the exact moment when you decided to become an activist.

 

Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Was it…

 

Because someone sent you a petition?
Or because a friend forwarded you an advocacy alert?
Or, I know: was it because you read a really great white paper?

 

Chances are, none of these inspired you to become an activist. So why do advocacy organizations persist in using these approaches?

 

The answer is: they are safe and tested. They generate the kinds of measurable returns that professionals love to see. And they are not likely to end in a spectacular failure.

We recently brought the School for Creative Activism to healthcare professionals through Open Society Foundations. One participant, Sacha Evans, describes her experiences including the “Ah Ha” moment of Artistic Activism and why it’s important to diversify approaches. Continue reading her blog post HERE. 

The Big Draw

draw contest

The World’s Biggest Drawing Festival runs throughout October; you can read more here. You can sample a charming children’s book on drawing/painting/printing like the great artists from The Guardian here.

Call for Applications School for Creative Activism: Advocacy Campaigns to Challenge High Medicines Prices

We’re pleased to announce a call for applications to a School for Creative Activism training session taking place this December, in Spain.

“Despite advances in medical science, affordable safe and effective medicines remain inaccessible to billions of people worldwide.” (Open Society Foundation)

We’re inviting grantees of the Open Society Public Health Program and their allies working on access to medicines to apply to participate in a 4-day School for Creative Activism (SCA) to be held in Barcelona, Spain on 15-18 December 2014.

You can download the application form here: SCA Call for Applications – Medicines Prices – Barcelona

Please note: this workshop is only open to grantees of the Open Society Public Health Program. Don’t worry, we’ll be doing more workshops in the coming months, so if this doesn’t apply to you this time stay tuned for future programs.

 

Arts & Alzheimer’s documentary to air on Oregon Public Broadcasting

The filmmakers contacted us yesterday to announce exciting news – “I Remember Better When I Paint” will  be airing on Oregon Public Broadcasting TV station on November 19, 2014 at 7 pm. Put it on your calendar so you don’t miss it, particularly if you have a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s! There is hope ~ all is not lost when there is art to step in and help with communication.

Remember Better When I Paint, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease. Among those who are featured are noted doctors and Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s.

The inspiration for the documentary was the painter Hilgos, who grew up in Portland, Oregon. In her later years while struggling with Alzheimer’s, she stated “I remember better when I paint.” With art students facilitating, Hilgos began painting again. Painting allowed Hilgos to maintain, and even regain, some of her core identity, and her extraordinary enthusiasm and energy, while living with profound memory loss.

This film, directed by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, is presented by French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation. To learn more, visit our previous post, the film’s website, and the Hilgos Foundation Wikipedia page.

Here’s a trailer: