“Even a veteran rapper like Nas is never sure when inspiration will strike. ’Sometimes ideas that I didn’t write down will pop up,’ says the rapper … ‘I realize, Wow, this is the time — this is the track I’ve been waiitng for.’ Sometimes, though, it doesn’t strike at all. ’You realize today’s not really the day,’ he says. ’So you find out what kind of day it is. Leave the studio, go enjoy the day.’”
From the one-paragaph profile of rapper Nas by Dave Itzkoff in the February 3, 2012 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
In case I ever had the notion that I could work in the quasi-ensemble setting of a Broadway show or a political campaign or a major magazine, reading Grace Coddington’s memoir “Grace” took care of that.
Here’s a description of a typical editorial meeting at Vogue under the leadership of Anna Wintour, with Ms. Coddington as creative director: “To mark the end of a season’s shows, you would be summoned to a fashion ideas meeting. It was like a final exam, and we all dreaded it. … You had to stand up, sing for your supper, and offer your ideas — although you didn’t really want to reveal your ideas for fear someone would poach them.”
Fear? And creativity? How can they co-exist?
Now that I’ve lived in California long enough not to be astonished by seeing citrus trees growing right in people’s yards — that doesn’t happen in New England (apples, yes, but not citrus) — I’ve also gotten blase about seeing lots of dropped fruit on the ground. How many oranges can one family eat or give away? Never gave it another thought.
Well, according to the Pacific Sun, Marin County student Haley Pavone paid attention to what I haven’t. Annie Spiegelman, writing in the March 1-7, 2013 issue, quotes Ms. Pavone about seeing a lemon tree last year that, because it “was producing too much fruit for the family to consume, with some surplus fruit falling on the ground, inviting pests and disease, it sparked an idea.” That idea is now a now thriving volunteer effort called Project Abundance. Ms. Pavone and 30 other student volunteers routinely rescue home-grown produce and direct it to the Marin Food Bank, which in turn supplies 37 locations with food. While the “gleaning” of many thousands of pounds of surplus crops annually from Marin County farms has been a practice for some time now, this project was apparently the first to target the home garden.
“As we go along, let us spread ideas, words and desires, without looking back to see who gathers them up.”
From “A Kingdom United,” a meditation by Elizabeth Leseur (died 1914) published on March 7, 2013 in Magnificat.
“I often get ideas just by looking at a tree. The shape of thee tree will dictate what the carving will be.”
From Karen Bannan’s March 21, 2013 New York Times Q&A-style interview with Long Island woodcarver Gregg Klewicki, who has found many new clients among those Hurricane Sandy folks who “have embraced the wreckage by turning their downed trees into sculpture.”
It ws another instance of one thing leading to another. A big winter wind/rain storm, a huge branch crashing down but not damaging anything, just filling up the whole side yard with misplaced greenness. So, call the arborist, who found many more branches that needed to be removed. Your tree can’t breathe, he said, it’s too dense. And when he was all done, not only was the tree breathing again, it was transmitting light through its new airy spaces. The garden below began to look better. New vistas to the west opened up — look at that, an actual sunset over the Pacific!
And there it was in the February 2013 issue of Inc. Magazine, an article by Jason Fried about lessons learned from pruning the apple trees on his rural property — lessons that he put to work in his company. The initial pain of seeing a just-pruned tree — “looking thinner and weaker than it did before” — gave way to delight in, as I saw with my tree, new light and air and growth. ”If you did the pruning right, you’ve given your tree a stronger foundation for the future.” It seems that the same thing worked in the workplace. ”A few months after cutting back our product line, something unexpected happened: We sprouted some new ideas. Duirng a discussion about one of our products, a couple of ideas suddenly emerged for new ones.” New ideas, energies and offerings and — yes, it’s a business — profits.
Well, add Antonio Frasconi to the list of artists I wish I had known — or even known of. He died on January 8 after an almost 70-year career as a woodcut artist. Douglas Martin’s obituary in The New York Times quoted accolades of Mr. Frasconi as “America’s foremost practitioner” and “the best of his generation.” And he lived and worked in Norwalk, CT, where I once lived. Having now researched his images, I really wish I had known him.
According to the obituary, numerous ideas drove Mr. Frasconi’s art. One was political — “A sort of anger builds in you, so you try to spill it back in your work” — based on the repressions suffered by his native country, Uruguay, under military dictatorship. Another was nature — in Norwalk, “the views of migrating birds and passing seasons from the window influencd his art.” And another was the very character of his chosen material — “Sometimes the wood gives you a break, and matches your conception of the way it is grained. But often you must surrender to the grain, find the movement of the scene, the mood of the work, in the way the grain runs.”
And I admire his stated reason for producing woodcut art — its accessibility. ”Mr. Frasconi said he took up the art after being attracted to the idea of making multiple prints, in part so he could offer art to people at reasonable prices.”
The reviews of J.R. Moehringer’s book “Sutton,” historical fiction about that famous bank robber Willie, were just starting to come out in late October 2012 when I heard him interviewed on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” Mr. Moehringer told Terry Gross that that he traced the idea for his book to his own “anger …toward banks after the global financial crisis in 2008.”
Anger made into art, yet another example.
“Mr. Barnet’s first encounters with art were the carvings of skeletel heads and other images on colonial tombstones in a local cemetery in Beverly. ’These were mementos of what had taken place,’ he recalled. ‘At the age of 10 or 12, I discovered that being an artist would give me an ability to create something which would live on after death.’”
From Ken Johnson’s obituary of “visionary artist” Will Barnet in the November 14, 2012 issue of The New York Times.
I like to think that this blog is characterized by its positive nature. I have never criticized an idea, nor held one up to ridicule. I want to contribute energy to the world, not deplete it. So, call me Pollyanna.
About a third of the way through Eve Pell’s “We Used To Own the Bronx — Memoirs of a Former Debutante,” I came across the following passage. It made my heart ache for this little girl and for all girls and boys whose adults find it easy or fun or necessary to crush their spirits. Quoting –
“I remember once wanting to tell my mother about a new plan for my dollhouse. I ran into the living room as she sat on the edge of a sofa, fixing some flowers. ‘I have an idea,’ I said to her excitedly. ’Treat it kindly, it’s far from home,’ she replied, laughing at her own joke as she placed a rose in just the right spot. I was crushed. She wasn’t the least interested in me or my idea, so I went away.”