I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I just finished Twin by Allen Shawn. This memoir by a professor of music and composer, is about his and his family’s experience with his mentally disabled twin sister. Many parts of this book resonated with me since my older brother Michael is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. I am a few years younger than Shawn, but his description of the attitudes toward mental illness in the 1950s is something that I experienced as well.
My blog today is not a comparison of experiences but rather about creativity. One particular passage in Twin caught my attention
“For me, composing music had never been about deliberately expressing particular emotions, but about discovering them. I didn’t know what I needed to say until I could excavate my inner world by composing.”
I applied this to my own art, as : “my painting should not be about expressing emotions but rather unleashing them.” I had been excavating my inner world long before I had an art form as a tool.
I express my emotions through painting based on visual choices: clash or harmony of colors; meticulous or slapdash application of colors; forms and relationships between forms. I picture unleashing my emotions as eliminating the mental middleman of choice (and perhaps conscious thought) and either hurling paint at the paper as a consequence of strong emotion, or caressing the paper with soft brushstrokes, or maybe finger strokes.
I was not able to eliminate conscious thought in today’s painting. I began by painting two slanted flesh-colored marks, with an excess of paint that I let drip down the paper. Using these marks to represent eyes, I sketched in a nose and a mouth, in vertical alignment.
The result is a confusing array of face parts, but with the help of my outlines, hopefully the viewer may see one face and then the other. I don’t think one can see both of them simultaneously.
My process today was not the ‘unleashing’ of emotions. I thought about and composed this study with deliberation, superposing a teary, vertical face on a tilted questioning face of my youth.
I suppose I did discover, or at least recovered, the emotion of looking back at my childhood with tears.