"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Message or Gimmick

It’s always something.

On Sunday I described the experience of seeing a need for change within my current Sacred Planet series. Although I love the work as it stands, I was embracing a desire to perform a defiant act - desecrating the surface of a piece by flinging paint over the existing imagery in order to underline its symbolic content.

I screwed up my courage. I felt it was right. Today you see the results. Perhaps not everyone will agree that this was a good thing to do, but I can live with that. Because the longer I make – the more I embrace the reality of making. The process is what counts. If something worth showing the public comes out of the making, it’s gravy.

But on to the next realization. There are seventeen other pieces in the series. You can see some of them in my gallery at complexcloth.com. If flinging paint defiantly worked on one, does that mean I should continue flinging?

Just between you and me, I did. And it worked on two more pieces. But then it began to get hard! It occurred to me that a defiant act is defiant partly because it spills out. It spews from an uncontrolled moment. That’s where the energy comes from.

So can defiance be thoughtful? Anyone who has studied American History 101 knows the American Revolution happened through a combination of detailed planning and reckless daring – possibly the yin and yang of defiance. See the need, plan the actions; dive into daringly executing them.

So I backed away from adding more paint, in order to think about the ramifications of my choices. The color absolutely must be part of the message. The placement? Probably counts. Is the paint flung or bombed onto the piece from the top of an eight-foot ladder? Am I moving away from defiance and toward an idea that could become a gimmick? Yikes.

There’s a paradox here. The end game visual message can spring from a moment of raw artistic courage, or it can carry power invested in the piece through careful planning. Both ways of working are valid. One thing I know for sure: continuing to fling without planning has the potential to ruin what was, up to that point, a perfectly good effort.

Now I want to find a graffiti artist and ask these questions. Is it easier to tag in the beginning when it’s a defiant act? Does it get harder to do once it isn’t as random any more – like, say, when someone gives you permission to do a really big spray paint image on the side of their building?

I suspect a tagger would agree with me. Defiance and planning both have their satisfactions. Maybe all we can hope is to know when to choose one over the other.


  1. I read this early this morning and have been trying to digest it. You gave us a lot to consider here. One thing that comes to my mind is that each piece of a series does not have to have the same treatment. If slinging paint feels right for some and not for others, then shouldn't we honor that? I am learning--slowly--to trust my gut. It's a decision only the artist can make. I like what you did with the paint. But it's your process as a artist that give's validity and vitality to the piece.

  2. Wow Jane. I know one tagger who got caught, he hated the experience and started working with his stencils on/in his wall art. I don't think the art had quite the same impact after that but he continued to explore it. His style constantly changes and I went to his site to see if I could show you some of that particular work, but he has changed styles again.


    I love the piece you show, it is bold and striking and has a voice of its own.