"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.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Working on Style: Part Two

A few days ago I referred to the worth of developing a unique approach to your work, and called it style. The point that day revolved around entering exhibitions or approaching galleries, where the jurist/curators might prefer to see a body of work that reads as visually cohesive. I still stand by that point and the reasoning behind it.

But as my friend Jackie pointed out in the Comments Section, Picasso did any thing he wanted. Sculpture, painting, watercolor, drawing. Did I mean to imply that somehow we are different from Picasso, and therefore we don’t have the option of working in more than one medium or style?

I did not.

Actually my reference was very narrow. I play around with all kinds of materials and techniques and so should any artist who is seeking versatility and also personal voice. But what happens in the studio is different from what happens on an entry form. I might have three different ways of working going at once and more power to me if I can keep that many balls in the air simultaneously. But when I submit an application for a show, better to choose which style I am going to present to the world, and save the other juicy stuff for another entry form. It’s all about harnessing vision and introducing it to the world selectively.

But a couple of other considerations.

Consideration #1: I still think that there’s a lot to be said for limitations within a specific body of work. I want to be really good at dye printing. I want to know it inside and out. I can flit and flutter around other techniques and maybe come up with some ideas that will eventually insert themselves into the work I am showing publicly, but in the meantime, I want mastery - at least in a few areas.

Mediocre might be fun in the present moment of creation, but getting good at something by spending intimate hours with it is much more fun long term.

Consideration #2:
It’s the playing around that leads to the unique combination of tools and materials that is recognizably Jane. It's like a buffet. The first time you go, you choose a little bit of everything. You’re stuffed; it’s fabulous. But you almost feel sick from overindulging. Next time, maybe forget the pastries. Skip the ham. Concentrate on the shrimp cocktail, and the exquisite salads. Same thing in the studio. You try out this or that, but most of what you try ends up on the cutting room floor. It’s a special combination of process and approach that adds up to You - the artist with the recognizable style.

And once you get into a groove, you discover that the techniques you live and breathe morph. I used to use textile paint for printing. Now I use sand. Same basic printing, but working with it intimately, showed me what else it could do.

The paradox of working – old techniques become new ones – rejuvenated by an unexpected brainstorm twist. And plenty of experience.

Here are two of my play day results. I’m lusting after color as a result of all that work in black, white and gray. So the color fields are new/old. New this month, but a method I know intimately. The sand printing? Old/new. Old screen image. New material.Next? I see stitching.

Just working along on style. Working on my voice.


  1. Very well expressed, Jane. I so agree with the concept of 'harnessing the vision' when presenting a cohesive body of work for a specific exhibit. Mastery sort of comes along as a result of serving ones passion. I like your buffet analogy.

  2. Jane-
    Great essay. In my experience, the process of mastering a craft leads to the greatest creative freedom which becomes the crown jewel.

    Have I told you lately how grateful I am that you are back and expanding my thoughts?? : )


  3. I agree about the buffet, and I think it's important to try everything in the buffet at least once. Otherwise, how do you know which techniques speak to you? It's important to taste and to feel what is working, not just let the mind control the whole process or other limitations enter in. For example, I don't have a sink for dyeing so I've done little of it. This summer I shall do it outside, several times, enough to give it a chance of meshing with me. Then, at the end of summer, if I am so inclined, I'll work around that limitation, but no longer will my brain just tell me, 'No, that's not for you because..." The Great Banquet is Life, who am I to turn up my nose without even trying? Not all choices morph into style, but some do and they're valuable. Thank you for the stimulation.