"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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Power of Limits

Last week I spent several hours studying the Impressionist paintings in the collection of the Musee d’Orsay, in Paris. It was thrilling.

Manet’s pastels were especially thought provoking. The subject matter included his requisite dancers and nude studies. Being so close to the surface allowed me to see how each painting evolved. Which strokes were first, and which strokes came later. Where the addition of soft pink enlivened the curve of the back. How a few dashes of white brought light to a tutu and set the music playing in my imagination.

It was curious to realize that Manet frequently added paper strips to a composition in order to expand the composition in one direction or another. Was he drawing spontaneously – and realizing once the piece was underway that he hadn’t judged the space accurately, so that he needed to add more paper? Or was the paper enlarged before he ever got started – an act based on limited resources? More than one pastel was worked on simple brown craft paper. Whim or limitation? Is that something you can Google?

I realized these works of Manet’s required only three things. A sheet of paper, a box of pastels, and the ability of the artist to put the two together. Which of course he did, magnificently.

When was the last time I worked so simply? Just cloth and dye, for example. Those materials get a piece underway, but I have an embarrassment of techniques and tools at my disposal. I love layers. I love complexity. I pondered the possibility of achieving these goals by using only two components. I am sure it can be done, just as Manet first sketched with pastels, and then worked to add the details.

This is a reminder of the power of limits; a topic I am going to keep pondering.

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea. Sometimes the most simple, thought-filled executions make the greatest statement. I saw a simple and exquisite piece of blown art glass last weekend and it took my breath away.