"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.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Working on Style
Another part of the essay described how hard it is for a gallery owner to defend a painter’s work if the brushstrokes in one painting vary from those in another. Since I am not trained as a painter this was a bit of a shock.
Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime. Making all his brushstrokes alike probably wouldn’t have changed his sales portfolio much. It’s doubtful, knowing what we know about him, that he would have been inclined to play by those rules, anyway.
In the long run, we’re all a mix of trying to overcome ineptitude – at least at the beginning – and desire to please. Humans like consistency and continuity. It makes us feel comfortable. Gallery owners know this, so it is in their best interest - and by extension in the best interest of their artists - to encourage them to work in a recognizable style. That’s how artists become established in the collective cultural mind.
Last week I met with one of my Mastery Program groups. A noon discussion focused on entering juried shows. I offered the observation that many jurors prefer pieces entered by an artist that evidence continuity and cohesiveness, over the work of an artist who submits three stylistically different works. You might be good at three different methods of patterning cloth or painting, but if you are entering a juried show, it’s better to offer entries that hang together. It’s an indication that you have history, and also an enthusiasm for your process. This struck most of the class members as odd. What about versatility? What about exploring new mediums and ideas?
The fact is, artists need both experimentation and a personal style. In order to develop your skills and the ability to work meaningfully, you’ve got to play around and try out lots of ideas. That’s how an individual style eventually develops. It takes time and long hours of working to distill communal process into a singular voice.
But that still doesn’t solve the problem of being considered clumsy or inept. There are always refined standards by which your work will be judged. That’s why it’s so important to love your own work. If you do, then negative comments might sting, but it won’t be for long.
And consider this: too much refinement is like eating white bread. All the texture and powerful nutrients are gone. No artist should be relegated to white bread status. It’s way more satisfying to work from the heart, even when it’s a slightly clumsy effort, because the powerful nutrients are still there. Viewers always know this. And are grateful.