Monday, July 19, 2010
The Art of Being Empty
After watching my inspiration turn to ennui recently, I received a note from my Muse, herself a highly respected plastic artist and painter in Rio. It was about Lygia Clark, a Brazilian plastic artist who frequently explored the emptiness of form in her work. Clark wrote that artists must not worry when they feel empty, because this is a natural condition for creative people.
Only when an artist is full are they ready to create, much in the way a person eats too much and they explode (vomit) in a furious burst of creative and emotional energy. What results is a large amount of painting, sculpture, music, etc. coming from the artist.
Filling up, Clark adds, is a process that takes time. It cannot be conjured up on a schedule; it means painfully collecting inspiration from routines among daily life: washing the clothes, taking walks in the neighborhood, having a quiet coffee in a shop alone, buying groceries, or just sitting on a bus while returning from work.
This is good to know because I often putter, waiting for inspiration to replace the emptiness. This means I cook, clean, sort, walk, nap, ponder, and move objects around a small basement apartment.
By contrast inspiration is a feeling of fullness. Often, but not always, the words begin to flow like water coming out of a fire hydrant. My best writing comes from making myself a “full” vessel, allowing the gods to pour their words into me.
Then for the next few days and weeks the cat or dog may not get fed. If I do buy food I might leave part of the groceries on the bus, along with gloves and umbrellas. The laundry does not get done. No one is dusting or vacuuming the carpet. I seldom make good conversation while full of inspiration. My circle of friends gets smaller.
In my fullness my characters jump off the page; they are extraordinary in their hopes and desperately seeking something beyond their grasp. They love and want to be loved. They face conflicting motives by what they try to conceal during the day and what they fear losing at night. They make a journey of discovery and then rapidly fade to black.
Implied in Clark’s statement is the notion that inspiration is found in daily life and that life itself is art.