Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Memories are Motionless

June 2, 2016

“Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are.” – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

tribeca $1900 300sqft

Earlier today, taking a break from painting, I googled studio prices in NYC to check out the going rate. The above studio is on the market in Tribeca. For 300 sq. ft. you will pay $1875.00/month!

Once upon a time, I rented a painting studio of my own. The space was larger than the the space above. For 400 sq. ft. I paid $400.00/month. Situated above a clock store in Williston Park on Long Island, a decidedly unhip but affordable and convenient location at the time,  northern light flooded my studio all day long. I was in heaven.

Excited to have a dedicated workspace I could get as dirty as I wanted, I laid down a roll of cheap linoleum, moved in my work table and supplies and got to work.

One morning as I arrived, the proprietor of the store below me was standing amidst a forest of chiming grandfather clocks, front door open. He introduced himself right away and asked me what I was up to, mentioning he always heard music playing. He then said he enjoyed (rather than objected to) the music and seemed a bit tickled to find out that someone was making art in the space above him instead of preparing tax returns or teaching traffic school.

I fondly recalled my studio days as I stepped back from the easel this afternoon to assess the progress of a new painting. My studio is the second bedroom of the two bedroom apartment we rent in Queens. I never did put down linoleum, but I guess I should have.

It’s fun to fantasize about the days when I painted full time as I spend my days off from a dreadful office job. I’m not complaining, per se, but occasionally on days like these I enjoy torturing myself by thumbing through an artist book I own called Studios by the Sea. 

To refer back to Bachelard in Poetics of Space, he writes: “…even when we no longer have a garret, when the attic room is lost and gone, there remains the fact that we once loved a garret, once lived in an attic. We return to them in our night dreams.”

This is so true. At heart, I’m a romantic. A big part of me loves to dream and yearn. Loves the yearning part more than the actual getting. The aroma of coffee beans in the grinder more delicious than drinking the brew. As I flipped through Studios by the Sea I wished and imagined. Sometimes walking around NYC, I will find myself gazing longingly at a 19th century townhouse on the Upper East Side — yearning to live there. And enjoying every minute of yearning.

During my recovery from a broken ankle last summer, I would pass a particular townhouse on East 63rd St. on the way to physical therapy. A painting hanging on the wall by artist Caio Fonseca was visible through the expansive front window. It held my eye each time I passed by. His work is a favorite of mine. As I stopped to gaze, I conjured an entire fantasy scenario based upon seeing his work hanging in that space. On the landing beneath the painting an elegant ebony grand piano, keyboard exposed, was poised to be played. Above hung a glittering crystal chandelier. Aware Fonseca played the piano, I was convinced it was a Steinway and that Fonseca lived in the townhouse.

But he didn’t live in the townhouse as I would come to find out. The scene – his painting, the piano, the splendor of the decor  – had been staged by a real estate agent, likely another “romantic” like myself. That agent, through his or her design, had gifted me many evenings of yearning and pleasurable wanderings.

Fantasy is better than the reality. I suppose people who invest in their “dream house” spend the rest of their lives “making it even better than they imagined” with continual remodeling because intrinsically they know that dreams are never realized. Otherwise, they would no longer be dreams.

…the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” – Bachelard


Time to Self-Actualize

December 3, 2010

Don’t try this on concrete.

Just the other day I came across the following quote by humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow:

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature.”

Ahhh….I love it. I was first introduced to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (see diagram below) in an Industrial Psych course I took as an undergrad. All these bazillion years later, it still makes sense to me. Especially during trying times, when, unwittingly, I’ve tended to invoke its message as a mental boost to better understand what I am going through.

This is a pictorial depiction of Maslow’s pyramid:

It’s sort of fun to parse the six tiers constituting this pyramid. Looking back on my life, I’ve discovered I’ve been mired one too many times in Levels 1 and 2 — essentially, flopping around like a fish in an empty bucket, short on air but long on promise. Worrying, worrying, worrying — much too much about money.

The dark cloud of imagined poverty hovering above me, which never quite seems to dissipate, perhaps, was spawned during childhood. With parents that were products of the Great Depression, it was sort of a given. They knew first hand what it was like to be poor and reminded us of that, well, constantly.

Do you think I’m made of money?

Anyway, I don’t blame them, but it’s had an effect.

That said, I must clarify that I have been reaping the many benefits of Level 3 for years. Luck, a good marriage, and enough life experience has helped me appreciate how much that is worth.

Still…you always need more. That’s why there are three more tiers to scale.

For shorter durations, I have dwelt in the realm of the highest tier and it was glorious.

Self-actualization, the uppermost, the apex of the pyramid, is where bliss resides. During two memorable periods in my life, I savored it.

The first was in grad school. With studio space in which to make art, and unencumbered by a soul-sucking job, I worked long and hard and enjoyed every minute of it — even while suffering (i.e., a painting not working out and the misery that entails).

After grad school, I rented a small space on top of a clock store on Long Island and worked in it as often as I could. I produced a body of work that earned me a solo exhibition. Utter, complete happiness.

The second period was when I worked as a weekly columnist for a local newspaper in California. Driving around each day looking for stories and meeting fascinating, wonderful people who were doing what they loved to do. I was writing everyday and meeting deadlines. I just love deadlines. They’re great motivators.

Remember when Joseph Campbell said we should follow our bliss? And when Joni Mitchell said we have to get ourselves back to the garden? And when Marlo Thomas said we’re free to be you and me?

Abraham Maslow also said: “You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Safety, though safe, can be deadly. My New Year’s resolution, starting tomorrow, (because why wait until January 1st?) is to reclaim myself, rediscover my inner garden, reach out for bliss at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.

I’ve been there before. It’s not impossible.