Canada Dreams
May, Rollo. The Courage to Create. Toronto: McLeod, 1975.
I have seen this book over the years in the stacks of various yard-sales and flea-markets. I had always thought it to be one of those horribly pedantic tomes written by some insipid, intellectual masturbator. I was wrong, but I am tempted to sleep with this book under my pillow, and hug it before I go to sleep at night.
It is nice to have some one write that artists are on the periphery of society, and that even though we delve into chaos we are only trying to bring order to it and not just stirring up trouble. He has struck a cord within me when he points out that we are courageous when out there thrashing around in the abyss. I never feel brave when I'm at it, and my ego never has a chance to really gloat upon my successes, because they always seem so closely hinged with luck.
Now, luck is the creative act that transforms the uncertain into the real. Art in May's view is a work that embodies the tension of that process. It is important that it not just show the product of the resolve, but also show the turmoil of that resolve. The first creative act is the destruction of familiar form followed by the birth of a new solution, understanding, and reform columnating in a narrative visual description of the artist's fresh understanding of the subject.
As artists, we relate to the subject to such a depth that the image is more than skin deep and carries over to the canvas. In some of the sighted examples, May speaks of how artists actually relate to the canvas as a human being. They talk, swear, and passionately embrace the work in the similar way in which we relate during love making. We merge and withdraw, blend and crystalize, give and take, become the other and retreat into ourselves, trust and doubt. This is the agony of an artist, to be constantly caught between these dichotomies until the final auh-ah!
Every sensitivity is acutely excited in the process. Our relationships, personal and societal and political, become part of the work; and the work becomes part of all we sense. The image of the solitary artist in her garret is as foolish as thinking that the trivial scribblings of the artist have no impact on the world at large.
This is the way it is with the recovered neurotic too; he/she must strip the form of the image to its component parts and then build a new image without loosing sight of the over-all process and her/his relationship to it.
So I'll hug this Teddy Bear of a book one last time, one last sup of the mother's cold comfort, "we are not COMPLETELY alone." Now, it is back to that wonderful mystery and misery in my studio.

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