Posts Tagged ‘art’

harris paintingA brisk debate is taking place in Australia as to what is to be done, if anything, with artworks associated with the convicted child molester and serial assaulter Rolf Harris, who as we write is facing a custodial sentencing hearing tonight. (Later: Harris was jailed for five years, to serve approximately three with good behaviour. Another 12 women are reputedly reporting alleged offences against him. The British Government’s legal officers are already considering a complaint that the sentence was inadequate.

In one town, Warrnambool, a rather attractive landscape mural painted by Harris on a loading dock has been covered up at the command of the town mayor while Councillors take the public pulse and work out whether it should be kept, covered up, or destroyed. A similar debate is occurring in the Queensland town of Bundaberg.

Meanwhile, The City of Perth says it is likely to tear up a footpath plaque in its central business district dedicated to Rolf Harris. “The boy from Bassendean” is among more than 150 notable West Australians celebrated with a plaque inlaid in the footpath of Perth’s St Georges Terrace.

Rolf Harris heads back to court today to face an almost certain custodial sentence.

Rolf Harris heads back to court today to face an almost certain custodial sentence.

What to do with the legacy of people that fall foul of the law is a vexed issue.

The calls for Rolf Harris to be expunged from art history is founded in the belief, which must be respected, that reminding victims of sexual abuse, whether children or adults, of his existence and role in society before his fall from grace, would be distressing and traumatic. This is a point of view that must be respected, coming as it does from people who are specifically experienced in the area, such as psychologists and victims of sexual assault organisations.

But at what point do we confront two awkward facts?

First, the elephant in the room is that the treatment of wrongdoers in the arts (and their output) varies enormously and for no apparent reason, and secondly the idea that the art from such people assumes a “life of its own” once it has left their mind, pen or brush, and becomes something which despite their crimes can still enrich or enliven society.

Let us tackle the first point first.

What about, for example, the case of politician and author Jeffrey Archer, whose books still sell in the millions worldwide? Should all his books be withdrawn from sale, or pulped, because he was clearly an adulterer, a perjurer who went to jail for his crime, and according to the internet allegedly involved in various other dubious matters?

Of course, it can be argued that Jeffrey Archer’s run-ins with the law were less contemptible than that of Rolf Harris, and so they may have been. Nevertheless, they seem to have put hardly a crimp in the veneer of his literary career.

And then what about the case of movie director Roman Polanski?

On March 10, 1977, Polanski, then aged 43, became embroiled in a scandal involving 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (now Samantha Geimer). A grand jury charged Polanski with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under fourteen, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, which ultimately led to Polanski’s guilty plea to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor as part of a plea deal agreed to by Polanski, the prosecutor, the judge, and the Gailey family.

According to Geimer’s testimony to the grand jury, Polanski had asked Geimer’s mother (a television actress and model) if he could photograph the girl as part of his work for the French edition of Vogue, which Polanski had been invited to guest-edit. Her mother allowed a private photo shoot.

Samantha Geimer as a teenager.

Samantha Geimer as a teenager.

Geimer testified that she felt uncomfortable during the first session, in which she posed topless at Polanski’s request, and initially did not wish to take part in a second, but nevertheless agreed to another shoot. This took place on 10 March 1977, at the home of actor Jack Nicholson in the Mulholland area of Los Angeles. At the time the crime was committed, Nicholson was on a ski-ing trip in Colorado, and his live-in girlfriend Anjelica Huston who was there, left, but later returned while Polanski and Geimer were there.

Geimer was quoted in a later article as saying that Huston became suspicious of what was going on behind the closed bedroom door and began banging on it, but left when Polanski insisted they were finishing up the photo shoot. “We did photos with me drinking champagne,” Geimer says. “Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realised he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn’t quite know how to get myself out of there.”

In a 2003 interview, she recalled that she began to feel uncomfortable after he asked her to lie down on a bed, and described how she attempted to resist. “I said, ‘No, no. I don’t want to go in there. No, I don’t want to do this. No!’, and then I didn’t know what else to do,” she stated, adding: “We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this”.

Geimer testified that Polanski provided champagne that they shared as well as part of a quaalude, and despite her protests, he performed oral, vaginal, and anal sex acts upon her, each time after being told ‘no’ and being asked to stop. Although Geimer has insisted that the sex was non-consensual, Polanski has disputed this. Nevertheless, under California law, a person under 18 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse with anyone who is not their spouse, and Polanski has since settled a civil case with Geimer in her favour and even written to her apologising for the effect he had on her life.

So let’s just get this clear.

Roman Polanski had anal sex with an entirely innocent and allegedly non-compliant 13 year old.

Butromanpolanski have you seen and enjoyed any of his movies since? Tess? Frantic? Bitter Moon? The Ninth Gate? The Pianist? (For which he was awarded an Oscar which he could not receive because he would have been arrested.) The Ghost Writer? Carnage? Venus in Fur?

Polanski today is lauded throughout the world as a leading artist, and people regularly troop to the microphone to argue that he should be forgiven and his crime expunged.

Others will fulminate on the evil or otherwise of the people involved in these trials, but that is not the purpose of this article. It is not our place to condemn. And we are certainly not about to deny the role of forgiveness or the concept that people do bad things and then improve themselves. And it should also be said that the judge in Polanski’s original trial may well have unsatisfactorily reneged on a deal not to give him further jail time, and that Polanski therefore considered flight the only option rather than staying and facing the music. It may also be that being forced to live in Europe rather than America has caused him some hardship: inconvenience, at least.

Yet for all that he was a convicted sexual offender, at exactly the same time as many of those now being exposed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere were abusing children, and the subsequent treatment of Polanski’s art and the man himself has been markedly different to that meted out to Rolf Harris, TV personality Stuart Hall, and a number of others.

We stress that we make no judgement either way on any of these cases … we merely note the apparent double standard. Or, if you prefer, the lack of a standard.

The second issue is even more complex. To what extent does a work of art acquire a life of its own after it has left its creator? Should it not be allowed to exist, unencumbered by the travails of its creator, and judged entirely on its merits?

Those shoes look very uncomfortable.

Those shoes look very uncomfortable.

For example, Joe Shuster co-created Superman with Jerry Siegel, but then years later the world discovered that he was also the artist behind a range of extremely offensive Bondage/BDSM comics sold “under the counter” in America.

These comics were so nasty they were banned by the Supreme Court. Their publisher, a mobster turned porn peddler, was sentenced to prison because of them.

The only reason Shuster wasn’t arrested too is that no one knew who drew these books until recently, when they were accidentally discovered in a used bookstore by a comics historian.

But would anyone seriously argue that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch Superman, or that the world would have been a better place if we’d never heard of the Man of Steel?

Moving on: Poet Lord Byron had at least two children out of wedlock, and one of them incestuously with his half-sister Augusta. He was also well-known as an enthusiastic adulterer.

Lord Byron - mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But should we ban his poetry?

Lord Byron – mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But should we ban his poetry?

Does that mean no jilted lover today should ever read his most exquisitely powerful words in When we two parted :? That would surely be a shame.

In secret we met
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

That worried look that says, "They know. They all know. I know they do."

That worried look that says, “They know. They all know. I know they do.”

Famous authors F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Goethe, Pushkin, and Dostoevsky all engaged in obsessive foot fetishes. Hardly illegal, but definitely peculiar.

For instance, when he wasn’t busy writing Faust, Goethe managed to find a woman named Christiane von Vulpis who shared his interest and would send him pairs of her “danced-out shoes,” which is like mailing a guy your dirty underwear, only much more unsettling on a deeper level.

Von Vulpis also nicknamed Goethe’s penis “Herr Schonfuss,” or “Mr. Nicefoot,” which we assume indicates that he either put toenail polish on his private parts and/or he habitually kept them bunched up in her wingtip loafers.

No, not illegal. But definitely strange. But should it affect our view of his lyric and epic poetry, his prose, his literary criticism, his learned works on botany, anatomy, and colour?

The list of artistic behavioural peculiarities rolls on, some mere peccadilloes, some extremely disturbing.

As the BBC reported, a victim of a paedophile teacher asked for his music textbooks for children to be banned. The BBC used the debate to ask, does the work, or the art, of someone who has committed such a crime have to be condemned as well?

Brian Davey

Brian Davey

To some within the music fraternity, there were two Brian Daveys. One a devious paedophile jailed for sexually abusing girls as young as four. The other was a respected music teacher who wrote books on the recorder that many tutors regard as among the best textbooks of their kind for children.

To his step-daughter Antoinette Lyons, now 33, the two are inseparable. She waived the anonymity accorded to victims of sexual abuse to call for his books to be withdrawn: “In my opinion they were written with one aim – to get to children.” This echoes an age-old conundrum from the world of art. Can you value work produced by someone whose private life and acts you find appalling? Do the proclivities of those responsible for artistic or intellectual works have to be taken into account in their appreciation?

It seems a shame that children should be denied access to excellent teaching materials because their author was a dangerous pervert.

As the BBC explained, similar stories keep popping up: for example, Fiona MacCarthy wrote a biography of the sculptor and typographer Eric Gill in 1989 that dropped a small bomb on the art world.

Gill's work remains popular despite his bizarre and illegal sexual behaviour.

Gill’s work remains popular despite his bizarre and illegal sexual behaviour.

Gill was one of the most respected artists of the 20th Century. His statue Prospero and Ariel adorns the BBC’s Broadcasting House and the Creation of Adam is in the lobby of the Palais des Nations, now the European HQ of the United Nations in Geneva.

But MacCarthy’s book revealed that he regularly had sex with two of his daughters, his sisters and even the family dog. These encounters he recorded in his diary.

Once the allegations were known, for some of Gill’s fans, even looking at his work became impossible. Most problematically, he was a Catholic convert who created some of the most popular devotional art of his era, such as the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, where worshippers pray at each panel depicting the suffering of Jesus.

But the Catholic Church would not budge an inch. The former Westminster Cathedral administrator, Bishop George Stack, retains an unequivocal view.

In 1998, spurred on by a cardinal’s praise for Gill, Margaret Kennedy, who campaigns for Ministers and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, called for the works to be removed.

“Survivors couldn’t pray at the Stations of the Cross. They were done by a paedophile. The very hands that carved the stations were the hands that abused. He abused his maids, his prostitutes, animals, he was having sex with everything that moved – a very deranged man sexually.”

But Stack commented: “There was no consideration given to taking these down. A work of art stands in its own right. Once it has been created it takes on a life of its own.”

Does it though? It might be easier to make this argument for the Stations of the Cross than for nude sketches of Gill’s teenage daughter. But should we therefore stop using the clean, neat typeface Gill Sans, created by Gill? That would make life exceptionally tricky for millions of people worldwide who rely on it as the core of their corporate style guide.

gesualdoPopular Italian medieval composer Carlo Gesualdo
brutally murdered his unfaithful wife, her lover, his child, yet weGesualdo Cera still listen to his music enraptured. He is remembered for writing intensely expressive madrigals and sacred music that use a chromatic language not heard again until the late 19th century.

No one remembers him for slaughtering the lovers in a frenzied attack, swinging his infant son around until he died, and so forth. Perhaps the passage of time confers some form of forgetfulness, but nevertheless. One has to wonder.

At the Wellthisiswhatithink College of Ethics we do not propose that we know the answer to this conundrum.

If we had to express a view, it would probably be that we want the work preserved, just as we wish the names of such criminals expunged from consciousness. (Unless, perhaps, some extraordinary and meaningful act of contrition has been accepted by their victims.) Both cannot be achieved, of course.

We do have one small idea. Maybe a partial answer to Warrnambool’s problem is simply to grab a brush and paint over Harris’s signature. Over time, the genesis of the work will be forgotten, as will it’s thoroughly obnoxious and destructive author, and we will all be left with what it is now.

A nice painting.

Mystery first-grader’s incredible poem about dancing goes viral

Mystery first-grader s incredible poem about dancing goes viral

When photographer Jason Gardner visited a US public school to photograph some of the students and their families this week, he ended up taking one picture he wasn’t planning to — a shot of a poem, written by a first-grader, which has now gone viral worldwide. We’re guessing you’re going to love it and share it, too.

The poem, penned at an after-school program in honour of National Poetry Month, which takes place in April, quickly became a hit. As a working poet, we simply love it. We love the idea of National Poetry Month, too.

But since Gardner took a picture of only the unsigned poem and not the student who wrote it, at this point the world has no idea of the young author’s identity. The poem reads:

We did the soft wind.

We danst slowly. We swrld

Aroned. We danst soft.

We lisin to the mozik.

We danst to the mozik.

We made personal space.

Forget the spelling, read the thoughts.

 

Although the poem doesn’t seem complicated at first glance, there’s a surprising depth in those simple words. And it comes with the endorsement of several high-profile writers and critics, including Michael Dumanis, a literature and poetry writing professor at Bennington College in Vermont.

“I loved it!” Dumanis told Yahoo about the poem. “It captured the truth about personal space. The mis-spellings make it more primal and deliberate. At the end there’s an epiphany about dancing and what that means.”

And Dumanis isn’t the only one with good things to say about the elementary student’s work. After Gardner posted the photo of the poem to his Facebook page, NPR’s radio show “Studio 360″ shared it with listeners and called the poem its favorite poem of National Poetry Month. (The story has since become the most shared on NPR’s website and has gotten more than 4000 likes.) Meanwhile, a headline on Gawker.com blared “This Talented First Grader Just Wrote a Better Poem Than You Ever Could.”

Though some poets and scholars don’t like the idea of a National Poetry Month, worrying that it will dis-suade people from being interested in poetry during the rest of the year, Dumanis disagrees with that idea.

“Anything that draws attention to an art form is ultimately a good thing. Because of National Poetry Month, more people encounter [poetry], more people write it and find a role for it in their lives. It becomes a long-term pursuit.” He hopes that once the student is identified, he or she will find out how much positive praise the poem has received. He also hopes that the student will continue pursuing creative endeavors and continue to read, study, and write poetry.

“This poem, to me, coming from a first-grader, has so much spark and originality,” he said. “Anytime you put a word on the page, you are making a choice.”

And it’s clear that, for this six-year-old, it was the right one. More power to his elbow.

(Yahoo and others.)

Stephen "Yolly" Yolland:

Really interesting exploration of the life of Piet Mondrian from Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink who noticed that some of her original glassworks resemble his early 20th century art, so she named them after him :-)

Originally posted on Jenie Yolland Glass Artist:

I made this piece of glass and was told it was just like a work by Piet Mondrian…so here is a brief snapshot about who Piet Mondrian was, I do hope you enjoy finding out about him.   I am now on a quest to make many more vibrant works that remind us of him and his philosophy.

The artistic philosophy of the De Stijl movment that formed the basis of the group’s work is known as neoplasticism (the new plastic art or the Nieuwe Beelding in Dutch),  Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was one of the group’s principal members.

Piet Mondriaan's birthplace in Amersfoort.

Piet Mondriaan’s birthplace in Amersfoort

Piet Mondrian was born in Amersfoort in the Netherlands.

His father Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan, was Head Teacher at the local primary school and also a qualified drawing teacher & with his uncle Fritz Mondriaan (a pupil of the Hague School) they both took young Piet to paint and…

View original 817 more words

Over here at the Wellthisiswhatithink dungeon we have made a living from writing for more than 25 years now, so we were fascinated by this excellent article from Carolyn Gregoire of Huff Post on the things that creative people do differently. Indeed, the Wellthisiswhatithink household comprises a writer, voiceover artist and speechmaker (er, that’d be yours truly), a leading glass artist, and an aspiring young actor with her own improv troupe. Close relatives have included an accomplished drawer of portraits, a member of the Royal Academy of Art, one of Australia’s leading watercolourists, and an amateur sculptor … so anything that explains the quirks of creative people is very helpful in surviving our somewhat unusual family!

When you work in advertising and marketing (areas where creativity, applied to a purpose, is supposed to reign supreme) people often ask us, frequently in a despairing tone, “what can I do to make my organisation more creative?”

In response, the Wellthisiswhatithink gurus always reply “Give your people room to fail.”

To be allowed to experiment and fail, even when that creates cost, is the critical pre-requisite of thinking (and acting) creatively. Thomas Edison, history’s most creative inventor and genesis of one of the world’s most powerful and profitable companies, tried over 1,000 filaments for the electric lightbulb before he found the right material to sustain light, and in doing so, made the world a brighter and safer place for millions of people.

He called them his “One thousand magnificent failures.”

egg crushed

So often, not always, but often, we observe the creativity being battered out of new joiners or junior staff by the (usually) older and more cynical bean counters that head up organisations. Creative people are not risk averse – bean counters and lawyers are.

When we let bean counters and lawyers run organisations they become increasingly stifled and fail to act with entrepreneurial flair.

People who create brilliant businesses are always creative thinkers. Sadly, as those businesses grow, as a result of the very risk-taking creativity that sets them on the path for success in the first place, they become riddled with ‘creativity cut outs” and increasingly bureaucratic, and much more prone to worried introspection than creative flair.

If you want to unleash creativity in your organisation, read this article and make a note of how creative people need to behave. And remember, they are the very lifeblood of your organisation, not a distraction.

Great article. Really. Read it. Specially if you run a company or anything else bigger than a knitting circle. Article begins:

Main Entry Image

 

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuro-science paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”

While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently.

They daydream.

daydreaming child

 

Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time.

According to Kaufman and psychologist Rebecca L. McMillan, who co-authored a paper titled “Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming,” mind-wandering can aid in the process of “creative incubation.” And of course, many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state — daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it’s related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity.

They observe everything.

The world is a creative person’s oyster – they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom “nothing is lost.”

The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind:

“However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I,’” Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker.”

They work the hours that work for them.

Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night. Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly.

They take time for solitude.

solitude

 

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone,” wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May.

Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming – we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.

“You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it,” he says. “It’s hard to find that inner creative voice if you’re not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself.”

They turn life’s obstacles around.

Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak – and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically,researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and – most importantly for creativity – seeing new possibilities in life.

“A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality,” says Kaufman. “What’s happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that’s very conducive to creativity.”

They seek out new experiences.

solo traveler

 

Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind – and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output.

“Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Kaufman. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.”

They “fail up.”

resilience

 

Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives – at least the successful ones – learn not to take failure so personally.

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.

(Or as a Creative Director once appositely remarked to us, “Always remember, our job is to say “Imagine if you will …” to people with no imagination.” – Ed.)

They ask the big questions.

Creative people are insatiably curious – they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.

They people-watch.

people watching

 

Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch – and they may generate some of their best ideas from it.

“[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books,” says Kaufman. “For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important. They’re keen observers of human nature.”

(And as John Cleese once remarked, “If you are calling the author of “A la recherche du temps perdu” a looney, I shall have to ask you to step oputside.” – Ed)

They take risks.

Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives.

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent — these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”

They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.

self expression

 

Nietzsche believed that one’s life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.

“Creative expression is self-expression,” says Kaufman. “Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness.”

They follow their true passions.

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated – meaning that they’re motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.

“Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,” write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.

They get out of their own heads.

creative writing

 

Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work.

“Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present,” says Kaufman. “The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind — I like calling it the ‘imagination brain network’ — it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking.”

Research has also suggested that inducing “psychological distance” – that is, taking another person’s perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar — can boost creative thinking.

They lose track of the time.

Creative types may find that when they’re writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get “in the zone,” or what’s known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they’re practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.

You get into the flow state when you’re performing an activity you enjoy that you’re good at, but that also challenges you — as any good creative project does.

“[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they’ve also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state,” says Kaufman. “The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you’re engaging in.”

They surround themselves with beauty.

Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty.

study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians — including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists — exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty.

They connect the dots.

doodle

 

If there’s one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it’s the ability to see possibilities where other don’t — or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

They constantly shake things up.

Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane.

“Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience,” says Kaufman.

They make time for mindfulness.

Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind — because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such as David Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind.

And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked with improved memory and focusbetter emotional well-being, reducedstress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity – all of which can lead to better creative thought.

As a professional writer for over 30 years now (a very scary thought) who is yet to actually go broke (got close a couple of times, admittedly) I am often asked “How the hell do you make a living writing?”

I have wondered myself on a few occasions. When people ask me the next question, which is always “What do you write?” I always answer “What someone will pay for.”  In fact, of course, I frequently write for no financial reward at all, but hell, I don’t want that idea gaining too much currency.

The answer to conquering the biggest problem most creative people face is in this little video from Ira Glass. He sums up the greatest thing holding most creative people back – the fact that they know that what they are doing could be better – and neatly provides a solution.

 

If you are in any way involved in art, writing, advertising, or miscellaneous content creation, and whatever stage of life you are at, I do recommend you listen to this short video. It happens to be charming and uplifting to.

And then do what it says.

mother_nature_air_earth_flowers_wind_plants_hd-wallpaper-488649

… you have EVER seen, then, well, then … poo and bah humbug to you.

No, not that amazing illustration, this:

http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/isobaric/1000hPa/orthographic=134.55,-31.25,1189

The earth’s winds, seen in real time. Amazing stuff.

 

In a sign of some excitement returning to the art market – a sure sign that the American economy is recovering, courtesy of the vast buckets of taxpayer (and Chinese taxpayer) money that has been chucked at it, this, er, blue thing, just sold for nearly $44 million US dollars.

art wank

The edges of the white stripe aren’t even perfect. “Send it back, Jeeves.”

Bloomberg gushed:

“The speculative element is returning to the market,” said Jonathan Binstock, senior adviser in postwar and contemporary art at Citi Private Bank. “There’s more money to spend on riskier opportunities, ones that would have seemed unappealing just a few years prior.”

Hours earlier, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index stock benchmark climbed to its eighth high in nine sessions.

The auction’s tally surpassed the presale low estimate of $284 million but fell short of the $383 million high estimate.

Records were set for four artists, including Gerhard Richter and Nate Lowman, while 11 of the 64 lots didn’t sell. Bidders from 35 countries registered for the sale, Sotheby’s said.

Consigned by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Newman’s 8.5-by-10-foot “Onement VI” was estimated at $30 million to $40 million. Its sale was ensured by an undisclosed third-party guarantee.

What a load of total tosh.

Yet another example that the uber-rich go soft in the head the richer they get. Who cares if they make money, or don’t, on such a transaction? It’s immoral, obscene, and ludicrous.

I have a similar work in my garage. It’s called a ping-pong table. It’s yours for $125. Or $100 and a slab of beer. Can’t say fairer than that.

Stephen "Yolly" Yolland:

"Who would have thought Lionel could be so enraged by my forgetting he likes peas with his faggots?"

“Who would have thought Lionel could be so enraged by my forgetting he likes mushy peas with his faggots?”

Those of you, and perusing our correspondence file there are many, who view the rampant success of the suburban blockbuster epic that is 50 Shades of Grey with some confusion – not to mention those who avoided reading the books altogether, commes moi – will love this blog from Speaker 7.

Genuinely hilarious, and recommended. As, indeed, is most of the blog. Give yourself a break and have a larf … fewer calories than a Kit-Kat, after all. Click here:

http://speaker7.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/fifty-shades-of-movie-magic/

P.S. Um. Are there really so many suburban housewives suffering total frustration of their darker sexual needs that they are absolutely hanging out for this movie to arrive, having read and re-read the three books a dozen times each? Sheesh.

(It’s out on Valentines Day next year, by the way. Yup, Valentines Day, for a movie about Dominance, Submission, and BDSM. You heard it here, first.)

Homo Suburbus clearly needs to lift his game. Personally, one always does one’s best to hold one’s end up where conjugal duties are concerned, but then there’s the back to be considered, not to mention the war wound … the gardening needs finishing, then there’s that tap that’s leaking. Not to mention, of course, football to watch.

Today I heard of a voraciously fit young lady marrying a much older guy this weekend, whose female friends are genuinely concerned that she will kill him.

Where coronary thrombosis beckons, discretion is the better part of valour, we say.

For some reason, Dear Reader. we are reminded of one of our all-time favourite poems, from a man who has created many of the wittiest and most apposite verses in the English language in the last forty years or so. Yes, OK, our mind is wandering: age will do that to you. Heigh ho. Anyway, those who are familiar with my poetry will immediately spot the genesis of my style, such as it is, in McGough’s work, which is acknowledged in the foreword to my book. Enjoy.

Today is Not a Day for Adultery

by Roger McGough

Today is not a day for adultery.

The sky is a wet blanket

being shaken in anger. Thunder

rumbles through the streets

like malicious gossip.

Take my advice: braving

the storm will not impress your lover

when you turn up at the house

in an anorak. Wellingtons,

even coloured, seldom arouse.

Your umbrella will leave a tell-tale

puddle in the hall. Another stain

to be explained away. Stay in,

keep your mucus to yourself.

today is not a day for sin.

Best pick up the phone and cancel.

Postpone until the weather clears.

No point in getting soaked through.

At your age, a fuck’s not worth

the chance of catching a ‘flu.

from Roger McGough, Selected Poems, 2006 at Penguin Books.

Originally posted on Speaker7:

I was delighted when I saw the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly:

ewcoverFinally, the first of many issues heralding the arrival of this movie. Being a big fan of the books, I tore through the magazine pages, reading voraciously and savoring every morsel I could.

I understand it will be difficult to condense E.L. James 600-paged behemoth down to a two-hour film. Will they cut out one of the 1,200 email exchanges? Or one of the 4,507 times Christian orders Ana to eat? Or one of the 35,678 times Christian remarks on Ana’s wetness.

God, I hope not.

In the magazine, the stars were interviewed about their thoughts on the film.

fiftyshadesactorsFor the uninitiated, Fifty Shades of Grey is a steamy trilogy about a virginal sockpuppet who falls in love with a controlling oil-retention enema. They murmur and stick things in holes. It’s awesome or–to use Virginia of Lame Adventures

View original 111 more words

A set of the ever popular series "Sunrise Anticipation"

A set of the ever popular series “Sunrise Anticipation”

It is tough, when one is so obviously a genius oneself, Dear Reader, to confront the fact that one’s better half is rapidly proving to the world that she is smarter than one by a considerable factor.

One has the pleasure, sometimes, of visiting Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink in her Richmond, Melbourne studio, to sit and watch her producing her glass: measuring, scoring, breaking, rearranging, merging, melting, creating.

Her eye for colour and what goes with what betrays her genes as the daughter of an oil painter and member of the Royal Academy on one side, of a talented pencil sketch and portrait artist on the other, with one brother who is a highly regarded watercolourist and another who is a talented amateur sculptor.

jenie's bowl

At dinner parties or with clients, at the drop of a hat she can wax lyrical about the various melting points of glass, the way it behaves under certain treatments, how it’s manufactured, and has also developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of other glass artists around the world, with whom she networks effortlessly and with great generosity of spirit.

So anyway, last night she presented her latest work – a multi-coloured 40cm x 40 cm lattice fruit bowl – you can see it in the picture above –  to her newest client, who was duly gobsmacked with its beauty. The clever thing about this item is how it combines solving a real life problem with beauty. The holes in the lattice let air circulate under the fruit, keeping it fresh for longer. The nexus where practicality meets art has long been a source of inspiration for artists, (Clarice Clift, anyone? Alessi?), and we see it again here.

I see this reaction again and again – how people admire the glass from different angles, marvelling not only its artistry but also it’s crafted mechanical aspects, how it simply “works”, and how it is nothing like they have ever seen before, which, of course, it always is, as every single item that comes out of the kiln is unique.

How it both refracts and reflects the light, turning our world into something new as it is rotated, leaned, lifted, peered around and through.

Detail from another favourite design of Jenie Yolland's. called Sparkling Chlorophyl

Detail from another favourite design of Jenie Yolland’s called Sparkling Chlorophyl

Artists do not receive, in my opinion, anything like the recognition they deserve, as they meander through our lives wide-eyed in wonder at the world about them , lifting gloom, inspiring, causing us to pause and reflect on the nature of life, of the things we see around us, and on each other.

I am very proud of my wife. So I thought, after nearly 600 blog posts, it was long overdue that I said so.

That is all.

If you would like to experience more of her work, you are more than welcome to head to her Etsy shop at http://www.etsy.com/au/shop/jensstudio. But do us all a favour, if you’d like something as a Christmas gift, delivered to Ulan Bator, please don’t leave it till December 24th.

Or you could head yourself over to https://www.facebook.com/jensstudioglass and like her FB page and join in the conversation.

flierIf you live in the Melbourne area (or if you feel like visiting) Jenie will even teach you how to make your very own piece of art glass.

One was one of the guinea pigs for her class, and one promises you hand on heart it’s the best couple of hundred bucks you’ll ever spend, and amazing value for money.

She even throws in a light lunch. Remember what we said about generous?

If you’re interested, give her a ring direct on 0408 899 900. (From outside Australia, +61 409 899 900.)

You go, grrrl.

Mary Gelpi and her dog Monty. And, er, red pants.

Mary Gelpi and her dog Monty. And, er, red pants.

I found this little poem on a blog called by Fibromy-Awesome, written by a charming and intelligent young lady called Mary Gelpi who is currently struck down by a bunch of crappy medical problems that she refuses to allow to defeat her.

I find reading her blog thoroughly uplifting, sometimes bringing me close to tears, occasionally very funny, and always well written. Many others agree, and I commend it to you.

Anyhow, while reading her stuff today I happened on some of her poetry, and as you will know, Dear Reader, I am something of a scribbler of rhyming couplets myself, and this one actually both moved me and made me guffaw simultaneously, which is a rare trick.

I don’t think I would have written it quite this way, but show me a poet who wouldn’t change something about what someone else has written and I will show you a poet bereft of passion and dying.

It’s sharp, and genuinely witty. Enjoy.

New People

There are two things people ask you
When they meet you for the first time.
What is your name?
What is it that you do?

I dislike these questions
They don’t actually reveal too much
of anything
about who we are.

Our name says something about our parents.
Our job says something about the world.

I have my grandmothers name
And now I’m unemployed.
Should we keep talking?

 

PS I am always glad to publish poems submitted to the blog provided they’re not, you know – how does one put this – utter crap*? Just email them to me at steveyolland@yahoo.com.

*Nota bene – utter crap of course means “I didn’t like it”. Everyone’s a critic, right?

Now 66 years old and still making the world sit up and take notice. inspiring stuff.

Now 66 years old and still making the world sit up and take notice. Inspiring stuff.

I have long been an admirer of David Bowie – singer, composer, artist, art expert, and actor.

Ziggy Stardust* and Aladdin Sane were the soundtrack for my late teens, that irreplaceable, confusing and alarming period when all the world seems to open up to a body and life has infinite possibilities. Bowie’s music – and even more so, his deliberately obscurantist lyrics – walked with me as I made the unsteady and faltering march into manhood.

Here was a man who had the courage to be experimental with language, who – if he could be believed – wrote lines and lines of lyrics and then cut the pages into pieces and lined the lines up at random to see what would happen. If they “spoke” to him in their new jumbled format, that was how they stayed. I never really thought that was what he did – it was all part of his avant-garde myth-making – but I was just dead impressed that anyone would have the courage to say that’s what he did.

Now, after a career spanning more than forty years in the arts, but after a musical hiatus of more than a decade, Bowie has unexpectedly released a new song, ahead of a new album out in March. It is already an internet sensation, and deservedly so. After what his biographer called “a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation” the dear old lad has done it again. Wrong-footed us all.

The song, ” Where are we now?” is achingly beautiful, mesmerically entrancing, and at one and the same time both awfully sad and strangely uplifting.

It celebrates, ultimately, love. Well, I think it does.

The love of people and places that lives on when times have changed. The type of complete, overwhelming and ultimately unselfish love that draws one human to another not for a brief moment, but for decades. That draws them to the memory of a person, even when they have moved away from our life, or died. Love that transcends, ultimately, life itself. Love that has a purity that is its own justification, and where purpose has no purpose. Love that simply lights up the Universe.

The song topped the UK iTunes chart within hours of being released and also made it to No 1 in sixteen others around the world, remarkable for a piece of music no one even knew was coming.

This is a song that could only be written after one has lived a life, which Bowie certainly has – he has endured expensive legal battles with various collaborators and managers, his art has frequently been misunderstood or derided, he has battled depression and an inability to separate his real life character from his onstage personas, endured severe cocaine addiction, and a heart attack – in short, he is at a stage, now, when one begins to contemplate one’s own mortality and the meandering route one has taken through life’s vicissitudes, sometimes taking the right path, and sometimes the wrong one, and when one has achieved the wisdom, hopefully, that comes with contemplation and the counsel of the years.

Its lyrics are deceptively approachable, at the same time hopelessly impenetrable, and at the end, charmingly simple. There is nothing synthetic in this song, despite the superb production values that have always marked David Bowie’s work, and the fascinating art-house video which accompanies it. (And kudos to the Director, too.)

I hesitate to say that only Bowie could write such a song, because that would be a burbling nonsense. What is certain is that he has certainly written more of them than most people.

“There’s a magical realism to it,” said Bowie’s friend Tony Oursler who directed the video, which also stars his wife, the abstract impressionist artist Jacqueline Humphries.

“People and friendships have gone sideways, planned projects have not gone anywhere and David wanted to reflect on that. It’s a very, very personal journey he is singing about and the song harkens back to that special time. He is a ‘man caught in time’ as he sings in the video, that’s a life-affirming statement.”

James Lingwood, co-director of influential London arts patron Artangel, which has commissioned work by Oursler, said he was surprised as anyone at the sudden comeback.

“Tony and David have collaborated for years and as soon as I saw the video, you can tell it is very much Tony’s work. It’s a fascinating video – both of them seem haunted by their histories, Bowie by using his Berlin background and Tony returning to his signature method. It’s poignant and plaintive the way Bowie undercuts his mythology while mythologizing himself at the same time. It’s wonderful.”

Here is another song in which Bowie achieved the same myth-making and emotional directness. Rock and Roll Suicide was an anthem that clearly meant a lot to Bowie. It finished the Ziggy Stardust album, and as seen here, it was the last song that he ever performed in his career-making Ziggy alter-ego with the Spiders from Mars band. His caterwauling appeal, intended to be understood both within the song and by his audience, that “You’re not alone!” is a unique moment in rock history, and could only have been written and performed by someone who was already well aware of his own mental fragility.

I am including two versions, the live one above and the recorded one below, simply because the one above speaks to how Bowie mesmerised a generation, related to them in a way few artists have before or since, and the second, below, simply because it’s a better production. It’s interesting to compare them.

What’s interesting about the live version are the atmospherics. The howl of anguish from the crowd when he announces that this was it, finally it, this last night at the iconic Hammersmith Odeon in 1973, for Ziggy and the Spiders.

And at the end, his completely unaffected “We love you.” to the crowd as he walked away, into an uncertain future … morphing into what would become Aladdin Sane, and then his move away from Glam Rock altogether into “plastic soul”, minimalism, blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. Along the way, his image changed as many times as his musical style … but there was always the love. His “We love you” could have been just one more wanker rock legend sucking up to his audience. It isn’t. Watch it.

Then enjoy the magical production quality – just enough stuff happening, not too much – of the album version.

Scrolling through the comments on YouTube for this song, I came across one which I found especially touching. It said, simply, “I wonder how many suicides David Bowie has prevented with this song?”

I wonder, indeed.

I wonder how many people will discover – or re-discover – love, when they hear “Where are we now?”

*Surely one of the most influential albums of all time, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust is – albeit vaguely – the story of a rock and roll character of whom the album purports to tell the life history.

Ziggy is the human manifestation of an alien being who is attempting to present humanity with a message of hope in the last five years of its existence. Ziggy Stardust is the definitive rock star: sexually promiscuous, wild in drug intake and with a message, ultimately, of peace and love; but he is destroyed both by his own excesses, and by the fans he inspired.

The character of Ziggy was inspired by British rock ‘n’ roll singer Vince Taylor whom Bowie met after Taylor had had a breakdown and believed himself to be a cross between a god and an alien; though Taylor was only part of the blueprint for the character, other influences included the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Kansai Yamamoto, who designed the costumes Bowie wore during the tour.

The Ziggy Stardust name came partly from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and partly, as Bowie told Rolling Stone, because Ziggy was “one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter ‘Z’”. He later explained in a 1990 interview that the Ziggy part came from a tailor’s shop called Ziggy’s that he passed on a train, and he liked it because it had “that Iggy [as in Iggy Pop] connotation but it was a tailor’s shop, and I thought, Well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy. So Ziggy Stardust was a real compilation of things.”

Some time ago – and for a second time soon, I trust – I visited the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart.

A short boat ride (or bus) from Constitution Dock in Hobart stands the amazing "MONA". Just go. Trust me.

A short boat ride (or bus) from Constitution Dock in Hobart standards the amazing and intellectually-challenging “MONA”. Just go. It’s world class.

Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and I raved about it: to each other, and to anyone who would listen. It was an utterly mesmerising and fascinating experience, combining everything from Egyptian mummies and Roman coins to the most modern video and physical installations and everything in between.

MONA 2

Sidney Nolan’s “Snake”, one of the feature pieces of Hobart’s new Museum of Old and New Art, with its own purpose-built gallery – the first time the work has ever been seen in its entirety.

It was confronting, funny, exciting, brilliantly staged, and above all, free. Frankly, it’s worth the cost of a flight to Hobart and back without question, regardless of all the other wonderful things to do in that most charming of small cities.

I believe it will come to be considered one of the most remarkable art spaces in the world, made more remarkable by the fact that the entire effort is the private gift of one somewhat eccentric self-made millionaire called David Walsh, God bless his cotton socks.

Anyhow, one of the most unusual and commented upon works in the gallery is a version of “The Great Wall of Vagina” by British artist Jamie McCartney.

This plaster cast wall consists of panels made up of, in total, some 400 vaginas, in plain, unadorned white, starkly displayed all along one wall in the heart of the museum. As the artist explained, the artwork was created from “over the course of 5 years, the vaginas (well the vulva area in fact) of hundreds of volunteers. It is an exploration of women’s relationships with their genitals.”

Now, Dear Reader, should you be inclined to be cynical and remark that a giant series of plaster casts of vaginas is (a) not art (b) sensationalism for sensationalism’s sake (c) a con, or (d) puerile and disgusting, well, frankly, I would dispute you.

“What is art?”, is, of course, an endless and usually ultimately sterile discussion anyway, but I will say that not only is the work striking and somehow – surprisingly – weirdly beautiful, and not in the least erotic, (well, to my eyes, anyway), but it also clearly engenders the debate on women’s usually-hidden parts that the artist was aiming for.

What I think is more interesting is whether women actually need to consider their “relationship with their genitals”. And based on recent studies, I really rather think they do.

"It's lovely dear, honestly it is." "You really mean that?" "I do, please don't worry." "Righy-ho, then."

“It’s lovely dear, honestly it is.” “You really mean that?” “I do, please don’t worry.” “Righty-ho, then.”

After all, it’s always been easy for men to consider their genitalia and their “normality” or otherwise.

Classical art is chock-full of gravitationally-enhanced examples of the penis and its attendant testicles. Not for nothing do women gaze at Michaelangelo’s David with relatively unabashed admiration.

But as we can see in this charming little vignette of family life, women’s genitalia has long been considered something to be somewhat prudishly kept from public view. The female pudenda is either lost behind some casually draped snatch of material or, even worse, simply ignored, replaced with a suitably sterile smooth surface sans any worrysome dangly bits. It appears that vaginas are somehow, dirtily, ashamedly … well, just plain rude.

Well, this is what I think. For a start, this is a distinction I have simply never understood, this difference in the public acceptability between the male body and the female.

A man can walk around topless for days and no one will comment (unless their top looks like mine, in which case they will probably get asked to put it away) but if a woman lets so much as a glimpse of nipple hit the light then all hell breaks loose. (Janet Jackson, anyone?) Newspaper columnists fulminate darkly about whether or not women should be allowed to breast feed in public. And the exterior of the female sex organ is apparently a step too far for nearly everyone.

Clearly we have a long way to go before womens’ naughty bits are ranked at the same level as mens’. This is obviously because women are inherently the deceiving, wanton, lustful sex, luring poor helpless out-of-control men from their allotted paths of bonking-free righteousness. It’s a feminist issue, of course, and it’s a nonsense, but for today’s purposes I digress, so I will move on.

Hidden deep in the cavernous interior of MON A are 400 vaginas. ooo-er missus, will the honoured burghers of sedate Hobart ever survive the shock?

Hidden deep in the cavernous interior of MONA are 400 plaster vaginas in all their glory. Ooo-er missus, will the honourble burghers of sedate Hobart ever survive the shock?

The real reason women need to know what vaginas look like – and lots of vaginas, preferably – is because psychologists tell us that in fact many women have only a passing idea of what their own genitalia looks like.

This is as opposed to men, of course, who from the age of about two, as any parent of a male child can confirm, start obsessively studying their schlong, regardless, usually, of where they are and who might watching. Little girls, famously and alternatively, are taught from an early age to keep their knees together, and in some Roman Catholic convents in my youth, even forbidden to wear shiny or patent leather shoes, lest they unexpectedly catch sight of a reflection of their own vagina and become … well, I dunno what, exactly. Raging harlots destined to end up marked with a red “A for adulteress” on their shirt or perhaps preggers by sixteen to a village lad or somesuch. That wicked vagina, Lord knows what it could lead you into …

That’s why one of the very first exercises conducted in many psycho-sexual therapies for women having difficulties relaxing and enjoying their own bodies is to encourage them to get a hand mirror and have a good look at their nether regions, becoming familiar with their folds, wrinkles, innies and outies, clitoris and surrounding tissue et al. Many women apparently find it a liberating and fulfilling experience, and good on them. Many of the volunteer models for McCartney’s work also found themselves feeling “empowered” by the experience, whether they were an 18 year old or a 79 year old, and everyone in between.

But even that isn’t the best reason to go look at 400 vaginas in plaster cast. Surely the best reason is that the bloody beauty industry, which obviously isn’t making enough money out of making women feel insecure and in need of spending more money, is convincing more and more women to go under the surgeon’s knife to hack away at their inner labia (lips) so that they look “neater”. Or even, at the patient’s request, and without any medical reason for doing so, to remove their inner vaginal lips entirely.

This is the brave new world of labiaplasty. And it’s all the rage.

As Australian blog Mamamia commented: “And it’s why a ‘Barbie’ is no longer just the name of the beloved childhood doll whose hair you cut and whose bizarre shaped feet you squeezed into painful looking plastic shoes. If only.

‘The Barbie’ is so nicknamed because the procedure involves removing the inner lips of the vulva entirely so that only the outer lips are visible. In other words, it makes the genitalia of real life women look like Barbie’s.”

This horrifyingly unnecessary (and like any surgical procedure, risky) activity is a great way for surgeons to make a quick buck. Increasingly, young women pop into a clinic or hospital for a quick nip and tuck while on holiday in countries where the procedure is cheaper, such as Thailand. And labiaplasty is on the rise even though the invasive and irreversible procedure is only rarely carried out for medical reasons.

Note, some vaginas look like this, but not very men. Virtually all vaginas in porn magazines look like this. It's called Photoshop. And it's a lie.

Note, some vaginas look like this, but not very many. Virtually all vaginas in porn magazines look like this. It’s called Photoshop. And it’s a lie.

Mamamia again: “The real reason labiaplasty is going gangbusters is that women and girls have become more concerned about the asthetic appeal of their baby making parts. This has been prompted, at least in part, by the fact that our society’s view of what ‘normal’ even looks like has been vastly distorted by what photoshopped vaginas look like in porn.”

This all leaves many women feeling insecure about what their vaginas look like. In some reports, the women seeking surgery are as young as 12 years old, supported by their mothers. Words fail me.

Commonly cited insecurities amongst women of all ages seeking labiaplasty include being worried that their vulva is uneven or unsymmetrical, or thinking the inner labia is ‘too long’.

Kristen O’Regan, a writer for art and politics magazine Guernica, went undercover to find out more about the surgery.

Kristen made an appointment with a plastic surgeon and told her that she was interested in labiaplasty. Kirsten was told, “Oh yes, you’re not alone.”

Dr. Red Alinsod, who invented the ‘Barbie’ surgery explains the reasoning behind it, to Kristen.

This results in a “clamshell” aesthetic: a smooth genital area, the outer labia appearing “sealed” together with no labia minora protrusion. Dr Alinsod tells me he invented the Barbie in 2005. “I had been doing more conservative labiaplasties before then,” he says. “But I kept getting patients who wanted almost all of it off. They would come in and say, I want a ‘Barbie.’ So I developed a procedure that would give them this comfortable, athletic, petite look, safely.”

And how many people are getting surgeries like these?

The American College of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons recorded 2,140 vaginal rejuvenation surgeries in 2010. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons estimates that 5,200 procedures are performed annually.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the vaginal rejuvenation industry was worth around $6.8million in 2009. This number is now undoubtedly much higher and does not take into account any procedures performed by gynecologists.

This is despite the fact that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have issued statements advising against vaginal cosmetic procedures, because the safety of the surgery is questionable. And in Australia requests for labiaplasty – which is available on Medicare – have more than doubled over the past 10 years.

So as blog Mamamia asks, (and good on them for pursuing this issue consistently over a number of articles), “we’ve got patients who don’t really need to be patients and doctors agreeing to operate anyway. Why would that be?”

The answer of course is the great God money – and the fact that women are worrying completely unnecessarily about the shape of their vaginas.

great-wall-of-vagina-exhibition

That’s why Jamie McCartney’s work is valuable, (just one of the ten panels is shown here), why it deserves to be seen, and discussed, as widely as possible. And why MONA deserves praise for making room for it.

Because women need to know, whatever shape their vagina is, whatever its component parts look like, whether the lips stick in or out or simply hang about in the breeze, it is 99.99999% certain that their vagina is entirely normal.

And they really don’t need to worry.

There is not a man alive who could care less. Trust me.

You might also care to read: http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/let-it-all-hang-outie/

Lost renoir painting

Just your average $100,000 find in a flea market, nothing to write home about …

Don’t all we fossickers and junk junkies just love a good deal? That unexpected find which we talk about for the rest of our lives?

A woman in Virginia has secured the deal of a lifetime for under US$50. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, went to a flea market over a year and a half ago. She purchased a box lot that contained a Paul Bunyan doll that she was interested in, but upon inspecting the contents of the box, she realized there was also a painting inside.

Self-portrait, (1876)

She noticed that the painting had famous French impressionist artist Pierre Auguste Renoir‘s name on it and a gallery sticker on the back of the frame.

She took the painting and its frame in a white plastic bag to the Potomack Company, an auction house based in Alexandria, Va., to see if the painting was authentic. Anne Craner, Potomack’s fine arts specialist and a former research associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said she researched the river scene in the 5.5- x 9-inch picture and became convinced that it was a legitimate Renoir. Craner authenticated the Renoir as the “Paysage Bords de Seine,” a landscape of the famous French river. The national gallery in Washington, D.C., agreed with Craner’s assessment, and the masterpiece will be auctioned off at the end of the month.

The painting is estimated to be worth between $75,000 to $100,000 and bears Renoir’s trademark brushstrokes and vibrant colors.

Craner is not sure how the painting made its way to a flea market but was able to look it up in a catalog of Renoir’s work.

She concludes that the masterpiece was purchased from the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in France in 1925 and later sold to Herbert May, the husband of a well-known collector in Maryland who donated many works to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

So who knows, your next flea market find could turn into your very own pot of gold. Happy hunting!

Wellthisiswhatithink collects old soda syphons with metal tops. Why? God knows. Perhaps it’s because when I was a kid my Mum used to drink brandy and soda when she had a migraine – I know, right? – and she would send me to get the soda syphon that was kept on the trolley in the dining room which we never used to make her up a syphon of fizzy, bitter soda water. I would fill the syphon with tap water, get the hard metallic green soda bulb, (they made great grenades to lob at my toy soldiers afterwards), and screw it into the side of the syphon, and when push came to shove and the gas was released, I would simply delight in the rush of bubbles.

Perhaps that is why. Who knows the logic of the collector – the obsessionist, the jackdaw. Whatever you like to call it. If you have any you don’t need, I would be more than willing to consider taking them off your hands.

soda syphon

I own what seems like dozens of these, secreted all over the house. I actually own this very one. Weird, huh? Uh-huh.


(With thanks to Yahoo and others)

Sometimes, the weather just cries out “let yourself off the lead, come and play”. Today was just one of those days. And a Sunday, too, when one doesn’t have to work. How lovely.

Yum Cha

Yum Cha: that’s Chinese for “Diet? Pfffft.”

After a brisk, cheery Yum Cha lunch at Wealth Garden – almost the only Westerners in a huge restaurant full of Chinese, which is always a good sign – She Who Must Be Obeyed suggested a ramble along the Yarra River at lovely nearby Warrandyte. Stuffed to the gunwales with prawn and pork dim sum, noodles and some things that it would probably be better not to know what they were – stuck it in your mouth, chow down, yummy, that’s all you need to know, gwai lo – all sloshing about in what seemed like an ocean of delicious tea,  it seemed like a very sensible idea.

What a joyous decision. Apart from running into not one but two good friends with similar ideas, it was simply the most glorious day imaginable. Clear, sunny, gentle breeze, the land green with winter rains, the river swollen and rushing and actually looking like a real river for once.

(The Yarra, whilst iconic for all Melburnians, is notorious for being something of a trickle, and very brown and muddy from silt washed down from up country.)

Out came the iPhone, and as we walked I snapped luscious scene after scene. They’re quite high resolution, so if you like them, please feel free to steal them. And I hope you enjoy sharing our day. Lots of love, Wellthisiswhatithink.

Yarra River

Blossom by Yarra

Wild garlic by Yarra

Blossom and Light

Green bank and light

Pretty riverside path

Soaring fir tree against blue sky

River and light and path

Exquisite view and light

Magnificent stand of gums

Wild garlic close up

Wave

Flower

Yolly

Contented author and photographer. No, I don’t expect anyone to download this one.

So there’s this young guy in London called Mark Powell who creates the most astonishing drawings on the backs of envelopes using a common-or-garden ballpoint (biro) pen made by a company called Bic. Like this:

Un-f**king-believable. What talent.

I don’t know why he chose that medium. But I do know genius when I see it.

All done with the cheapest of implements and a huge amount of patience.

When you see what passes for art nowadays, I sincerely hope this guy is making squillions. But I bet he isn’t: well, yet, anyway.

Anyhow, take 5 minutes and see more here http://markpowellartist.com/ Seriously, do it now, it’s worth it.

I also note that the originals are about three hundred quid each, although prints are available too. Now I am not exactly flush with funds, Dear Reader, but I reckon three ton to be a snip when you look at the time and care involved, and I am going to get one. Maybe two.

See: I think this guy’s work might go viral – and they’ll be going for a lot more than three hundred in the near future. You heard it here first. So don’t blame me if you miss out.

Remember, I am the guy who said, on the first hearing of “Roxanne”, that Police (then utterly unknown) would be the next super-uber-band. And who on seeing Keira Knightley in “Bend it like Beckham” opined “She’s going to be the next huge acting star from the UK”.

See, I can pick winners. Oh, want to know who the next world’s biggest soccer star is going to be? A young lad called Adam Lallana, playing for Southampton. He’s going to set the English premiership alight next season, no matter how Saints themselves go. Just remember who told you.

It’s certainly marvellous.

Fog Sculpture, 1976, Fujiko Nayaka

Fog Sculpture, 1976, Fujiko Nayaka – this photograph is large enough to make a desktop wallpaper from, if you happen to like it that much. Just snapped with my iPhone; amazing device, really. Just right click and save as etc.

Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya installed a series of vents that blow mist (for two or so hours every day) across a reedy, watery, pondy landscape in the sculpture park at the National Gallery in Canberra.

Clouds of diaphanous water mist float ethereally across a naturally obscured landscape that weaves in and out of the grey; a seeking, grasping, floating miasma. It is at one and the same time unsettling yet curiously peaceful. As the breeze changes direction, so, naturally, does the sculpture. The vista changes, subtly, constantly. You can’t take your eyes off it.

Another view, with a stylised boat ‘beached’ on the edge of the pool.

And again.

It really is a remarkable cultural experience.

As, indeed, is much of Canberra. The National Gallery would grace any city in the world, and the cluster of dramatic modern buildings of national significance nestled around the fringes of man-made Lake Burley Griffin is truly breathtaking. Everywhere you look, there is another fine building to admire, let alone visit.

Elsewhere, meandering along the boulevards, the view along the Parliament-Old Parliament-War Memorial axis is genuinely one of the great pieces of massive, permanent city design – truly, a spectacular attempt to tame the natural landscape – to be seen anywhere in the world.

Canberra

Canberra with the National War Memorial in the foreground, then Anzac Parade, then Lake Burley Griffin, then the Old Parliament House, and then the New Parliament.

It is damn cold in Canberra this weekend – down to minus 2 tonight. I am sure the capital of Australia has its charms in all seasons, but to me it is clear that this was a city that was born to be seen, like this, on crystal-clear ice-cold winter days, where no heat haze or dust obscures the designer’s grand vision.

Right around the corner from the Fog Sculpture are a clutch of Rodins, the Burghers of Calais, a fine effort from one who was surely one of the finest representational sculptors in history. From one extreme to the other, one might think.

And yet, despite the obvious differences between the solidity and permanence of Rodin’s massive bronzes and Nakaya’s momentary, evanescent impression of clouds and half-seen greenery, there is a great continuity in the goals of both the artists.

They both seek to move, to impress, to encourage introspection, to make us leave the daily round of minor matters and think: to calm us, to simultaneously provoke us – ultimately, to make us stop and consider our mortality, and loss. And love, and pain, and how in the final analysis, it is all the same thing. Just life.

It is good for the soul, in short, and on occasion, for one to step aside from the daily round and simply look about a bit. I really must remember to do it more often.

Remind me, Dear Reader, next time I forget.

Related articles

Poet in pub

I am not playing pool until I can work out what the fuck rhymes with “buttock”.

People usually enjoy it when I post my own poetry here, and I am happy to do so, so long as some of you buy the book occasionally too. Remember, any profits benefit a number of wonderful charities. You can head to: http://tinyurl.com/7tzxxgg where it is available in both book format and download.

I am always – like most writers – pondering the nature of writing and the creative process. 

This is not mere self-absorption, I feel. Well, I hope it isn’t.

Like a musician who hears notes constantly in their head which won’t go away until he plays them, or an artist who perceives the lines and colours of the world in a particular way and feels compelled to depict them, so the writer is frequently the victim of his or her words, not their master or mistress.

Sometimes – often – I simply feel an urge to write things down, to express them just so. If I ignore the urge, it becomes a mental nagging, then an indescribable emotional itch, then a full-blown obsession.

Like all writers I have been tortured by words or phrases, and eventually tossed back the sweat-drenched sheets and stumbled angrily to my typewriter or computer, willing the damn things down onto the empty page, so I can get some damn sleep.

And as any writer will tell you, it is the day you forget your shiny new portable electronic device, or more prosaically, your notepad, that the thoughts come flooding thick and fast, insistently, clamouring for attention, and you have to press confused bystanders or friends into giving you pen or paper immediately less the internal howling becomes too intense.

So: I wrote a poem about it. As you do. (Well, as you do if you’re a poet.) About how writing doesn’t just invade my life, it really is my life – has been for as long as I can recall, actually – and the rest of my life goes on around it, sometimes uninterrupted, and sometimes completely dominated by it.

The poem’s very long, but I do hope you find it enjoyable. It describes a real evening, long, long ago. Deep in the last millennium. Or perhaps, an amalgam of evenings. The pub was the Leinster Arms in Collingwood, in Melbourne, which for a while I seemingly kept open almost single-handedly through my contributions, (it would have been cheaper to rent an office, as I later did), and I only reveal that location now because I am perfectly sure that no-one there remembers me at all, and most of those that I now report on are either dead, demented, or simply moved on. And anyway, the poem is written with affection, and “no names, no pack-drill”, eh?

I am sure other poets and writers of all kinds – indeed, creative people of all kinds – will find echoes of themselves in here.

The Writer, by Stephen Yolland

This little animation is very amusing and brilliantly executed. What’s really sad is that when I looked at it I just kept thinking “I bet this is an ad for a watch company”. Then at the end I thought, “this should be an ad for a watch company”.  You know what they say, “You can take the boy out of the advertising industry, but you can’t … etc etc”.

You never mind me. You just enjoy the animation – and well done the creators!

OK, but seriously, wouldn’t it make a great watch ad?

OK, Dear Reader, of what is this a photo? (I actually wrote “what is this a photo of?” originally until I heard Winston Churchill bellowing in my ear “Never use a preposition to end your sentences with!” and rapidly corrected it.) OK, thinking caps on …

 

OK, so what's this?

Hmmmm ..... *ponders*

 

  • Is it some strange marking or pattern on a South American plain, amazingly only visible from space?
  • Is it the latest brilliant work from a yet-to-be-discovered Aboriginal artist?
  • Is it a series of goatherder’s paths high in the un-mapped wilderness of the Himalayan foothills?

Well?

What say you, D.R?

Actually, it’s the tracks left in a rockpool at Point Leo in Victoria, Australia, from some sea worm or sea slug which has now left the building.

Camera: very old battered iPhone

Shutter setting: whatever, it only has one

Light: Australian autumn sunshine – glorious day

Copyright? Nah, bugger it, go for your life. It makes a great desktop wallpaper. Feel free to nick it.

Lots of love, Wellthisiswhatithink. xox

PS Yes, it’s been a good day, thank you. Meetings should get cancelled more often.

 

Real Australian sea slugs

These are real Australian sea slugs. Aren't they pretty? Was it this type of sea slug in the rock pool I photographed? Not a bloody clue. Does it matter? Top to bottom: sea slug species Hypselodoris bennetti, Chromodoris loringi and Chromodoris hunteri.

 

Ok: admittedly it’s written by my wife, but I really do think this little article is fascinating, especially the way the word cuff has transmogrified itself as a word and spread into different phrases.

http://imaketheglass.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/cufflinks-cuff-links-where-did-it-all-begin/

I can also heartily recommend Jenie’s cufflinks, as every pair is hand-made, unique and guaranteed to be passed down from father to son!

The unpredictable and joyous art of kiln-slumped glass

The unpredictable and joyous art of kiln-slumped glass

For more information on Jenie’s glass art, which covers much more than cufflinks, head to http://www.etsy.com/shop/jensstudio. As one of Melbourne’s leading glass artists, it’s well worth a look-see.