"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."
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.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Loving in the New Year
Last Thursday I shipped 48 pieces to Louisville, where my work will be installed at the Hite Art Institute (University of Louisville) this month. If you live in the vicinity, come and join me on January 26, for the lecture and reception. It’s free.
On Friday morning I woke up thinking about what to do next. I won’t start right away, as I believe a certain closure is usually needed when a body of work or a project is completed. For me, closure doesn’t come until I breathe a sigh of relief seeing the work installed in the gallery space.
But I was already living in the future - imagining how similar images and formats could employ saturated color and the entire color palette. I guess I missed vibrant color while I was working with the achromatic scheme I chose for the recently completed work.
I’m also reading Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Wow. Highly recommended. And the inspiration for this essay because of how his ideas segue with my own experiences of making.
Lots of artists work because of what they think will happen if they can only be good enough to get some attention. Most people have a scenario playing out in their heads when they imagine where their art might lead. Winning a major prize in a juried show. Getting a book deal. Being approached by a public television producer interested in filming an interview. Our culture sets us up for this. Don’t you want to be in a tabloid at the grocery store so everyone will know your name?
I digress. Csikszentmihalyi suggests that we usually put the cart before the horse. This is true in many domains – not only within the domain of art making. We imagine what we hope to achieve as part of the impetus that inspires us to keep working. The thing is, without building a knowledge base so that we can be really good at whatever we do, and without choosing to do what we do because we find it endlessly fascinating - a practice we must do, as opposed to a practice we find mildly interesting – we easily lose the desire required to keep the practice going.
In Meg Cox’s fine anthology on quilters and quilting making,The Quilter's Catalog, she quotes one young woman as saying quilting is something she must do – it is as important to her as breathing. That’s the kind of attachment to a practice that will keep it going, no matter how busy life gets and no matter how many other “to dos” come pounding on the door.
It’s not a bad idea to visualize where you want your work to take you. A five year plan is a good thing. It’s important to know how to write an artist’s statement, and to acquire the self-confidence it takes to approach a gallery. But those are learnable skills. Loving something enough to want to do it whenever you can is less tangible. And not negotiable. It’s what wakes you up in the night, thinking into the future about color.
If you are struggling to stay focused or to find time to work, use your new year energy to take stock. What do you love? Haven’t found it yet? Keep looking.
Maybe you’ll find Mary Chapin Carpenter’s lyrics encouraging:
You might still be searching every face
For one you can’t forget
But love is out there in a stranger’s clothes
You just haven’t met him yet.