Les Rêves Canadiens
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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