Monday, March 2, 2009

Musing on Muses


I’ve finished my 6th industrial landscape (photo soon) and started immediately on #7, and #8 is already crowding into my head. I began to wonder where ideas come from…I know playing with Photoshop always sparks possibilities – and looking at other art. I wish I could teach a workshop where everyone had a computer with Photoshop loaded on it! I’m not a PS expert by the way – but you really don’t need to be. I use probably 1% of the program – if I learn a new trick I try to repeat it several times, otherwise it’s soon gone!

Cogitating upon the source of ideas, I picked up an old book lying around (and if you saw my house you’d realize that was very true– there are piles of art books on every piece of furniture!) Art Synectics by Nicholas Roukes. His main thesis is that bringing different things together can lead to new creations. Sandburg is quoted: “poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits”. Synectics is really a modern term for alchemy - you put an unlikely mix into a pot, cook it and voila! E.g. neon lights and birds’ nests! Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Or even better, nests made from that laser fiber you can beam light through…giant ones with cushions in would be lovely – definitely a cure for seasonal affective disorder! Of course there’d have to be room for the tea tray with the pot of tea and jug of milk! the heat from the lights could be harvested to boil a kettle! I’m teaching a class called “Coaxing the Muse” at Arrowmont in July. I have several different exercises, I think it would be fun to have people try hyacinths and biscuits!

Roukes also gives several examples of analogies – e.g. an ear of corn and a high rise building, or a tree and the human vascular system. And of course many diagnostic questionnaires now use the tree branch system of continually splitting into yes/no branches. Town planners use it too, and I once heard a lecture on artificial intelligence and they were trying a similar model.

Analogies in poetry yield wonderful pictures: Sandburg’s “the fog comes in on little cat feet”..actually our 25lb cat most inappropriately named Thistle sounds more like a galloping horse as he approaches the bed for the morning feline alarm call!

Designs can be lifted from anywhere though She Almighty (Peter Hoeg) has some of the best ones. Aerodynamics and the building of air craft came from the study of birds.

Roukes defines and lists possible sources of analogy:
a) logical: where there are similarites in design, function or structure in very different things e.g. streams →rivers and streets→roads.
b) Synaesthetic analogies: visual, aural, taste – any sense. A musical rhythm can be compared to a visual one: in designing quilts one could take a piece of music as a start for a quilt.
c) Affective analogies – a person’s ideas disgust us and we think of them as slime; a child’s face can radiate joy like a sunbeam in a gloom ychurch. So if we wanted to make a quilt about joy we might consider a radiating design with light values as a focal point.
d) Paradoxical analogies: and of course there was a whole series of wonderful quilts based on oxymorons – sadly I wasn’t asked to do one! Though my whole Industrial Landscape series is an oxymoron in a way. Industrialization embodies the conflict between our need for energy and manufacturing and the effect it has on the environment. I want the quilts to show that push/pull – the positive and the negative totally intertwine.

Which reminds me – I’d best get back to work!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!

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