July 13, 2016

The Artistic Impulse

Cindy (2013) by Chuck Close 
"It seems to me now, with greater reflection, that the value of experiencing another person’s art is not merely the work itself, but the opportunity it presents to connect with the interior impulse of another."

Wil S. Hylton, The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close

I love this quote because it captures so eloquently a familiar feeling. I love going to galleries and museums to see the manifested impulse of other artists. And I am fascinated even with my own impulses. I don't know "where they come from" as they say—a phrase that conjurs the image of an immigrant idea or a mysterious pipeline that ends at one's heart like some sort of interior creative water park.

As a playwright I sometimes try to articulate where an idea for a play comes from. Sometimes I know the seed, like the painterly book that illustrates Nabokov's synesthesia that led me to the winding path of research that grew to become Mystic in the Savage State. But sometimes the idea just presents itself somehow—it arrives. This is true of the idea for the play I have been writing for the past 6 weeks. There have been very clear points of inspiration on the journey: The premise for the play seemed to just reveal itself during a creative daydream as I drove to the coffee shop. Because I did not know how long the idea would stick around, I was sure to start writing notes as soon as I parked. The title came to me on another drive, but in a more physical presentation from the universe. On the license plate for a large truck were the words Semi and Permanent, side by side. The play is set in the wake of a young man who commits suicide. Creative daydreaming led me to understand that the character used to say that life was just semi-permanent. The title became Semi-Permanent. (It's a working title, so it too may be only semi-permanent.)

When I witness visual art pieces I regularly wonder to myself, consciously or not, "What inspired them to create this?" In this current reflection, I realize that I am more curious about what impulse drove them to this creation. What did they love about the materials, the lines and shapes and textures, the concepts of the piece? What were the moments of inspiration like—did ideas arrive quickly or slowly? Did the impulses intrude or were they invited in?

I often am fascinated to learn what artists say about their own work or, better yet, about their process. But sometimes I am happy not to know any background whatsoever, because my imagination becomes a playground for all the possibilities that their artwork stirs in me.