Tag Archives: creativity

Collage Night.

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My good friend Bekah has been on a collaging kick as of late, and she invited me over a couple nights ago for a drink-PBR-and-make-collages night. I was a little skeptical at first, but once I got going, I slipped into a creative trance that I wanted to live in forever, cutting and gluing and arranging and rearranging. I was lamenting to a friend the other day how difficult it is to pursue creative projects that are free, but collaging seems an excellent solution to that dilemma: Bekah picked up a couple issues of National Geographic from the 1950s and 1940s from Half Price Books for just a couple dollars each, and I was amazed at how instantaneously and tangibly good it felt to be creating with my hands. I’m a collaging convert, guys.

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On a related note, the photographs from the old National Geographics that we used for collaging are incredible. Truly some of the most amazing compositions and subjects I’ve ever seen. And it’s so fascinating to compare these dreamy, fuzzy-around-the-edges photos from the 40s and 50s to the crystal-clear sharpness of present-day photography. It’s what we’ve come to expect from our photos, I guess, but I think I prefer the more approximate old style. There’s a sort of magic and mystery in the diminished detail of the old photos that’s really enchanting because, as Bekah astutely noted, they’re not trying to be so literal. All of which is to say: I’m heading to Half Price Books immediately to pore through more of these amazing NatGeo photo archives, and to bring a few home for another collage night.
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To Be Productive.

Earlier this week, Blaze was writing on her blog about how she often feels torn about whether to work on something creative, like a new set of illustrations, or something crafty that she can put to use in her home. I have been feeling this same tension between creative and crafty for the past couple weeks, with an added element that wins out more often than it should: loafing.

I’m generally really good at multi-tasking (which is good, because my job kind of depends on it), but I’ve found that with projects, whether creative or crafty, I become incredibly one-track-minded. I think this is because I hate to start something and then leave it unfinished. It just doesn’t sit well with me. So instead of working on a project here and there for a few weeks until I finish it, I work on it non-stop and don’t leave room for anything else. For example, I’m working on reupholstering this amazing chair and my entire weekend became enslaved to the completion of this chair: I primed the chair on Friday night, I primed it again on Saturday morning and applied the first coat of paint on Saturday night, and did the second coat of paint and the first layer of polyurethane today. Let’s just say I put The O.C. on as background noise while I was painting, and I made it through the entire second season just in the past 48 hours. Yikes.

While I was painting, I was thinking about how I should be sewing things for my shop, and I even tried to take a break from painting to do a little sewing, but I just couldn’t mentally detach myself from the chair. And I have a feeling I won’t be able to be mentally present in my sewing until this chair is done. I’m kind of justifying the whole thing by looking at the duality of this project: not only is it something that will have a practical use in my apartment, but it’s also something that allows me to create something new from something old. I wish my focus could be a little more spread out when it comes to things like this though, instead of being so intensely focused in one spot that I can only do one thing at a time. My brain compartmentalizes, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Most of the time I think that it’s good to put everything into one thing at a time instead of spreading yourself too thin and not giving a project the care and attention it deserves. But my brain also tends to police my intentions, and make me feel guilty for not putting wholly creative work first all the time.

It’s easy to get a lot of work done on these projects on the weekends when I have nothing else going on, but more often than not during the week, I’m endlessly tempted to just sit in front of the TV when I get home from work or bop around on Facebook for hours until my mind turns to mush. After an eight-hour workday and more than an hour of commuting, sometimes I just want to go into a vegetative state. I know I should be doing something productive, but then my body just says “no dice” and it’s a very lethargic evening. And then I feel guilty.

I feel this drive to always be doing something productive and creative in my free time, but sometimes I just really can’t avoid being a couch potato. I guess the key is balance: I don’t need to be sewing something new every night of the week, but I also shouldn’t fall into a lazy do-nothing mood every night of the week either. Productivity is good, but rest is also good, and both are essential to a happy Kendall.

The White Stripes and Creative Evolution.

On Wednesday, the music world was dealt a harsh blow. In case you live in a cave somewhere and haven’t heard, the White Stripes announced that they were disbanding after more than thirteen years and would no longer be making music together or playing live together. Here is part of a statement they issued on their website:

The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health. It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way.

Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn’t met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the art and music that the band has created. It is also done with the utmost respect to those fans who’ve shared in those creations, with their feelings considered greatly.

As a fan of the White Stripes’ music, I feel grieved knowing that there will never be another new White Stripes album or another opportunity for me to see them perform together. But as a person who takes creative work very seriously, I totally understand their reasoning and think that they made a really considerate and mature decision in breaking up.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that humans are predisposed toward evolution, especially evolution of their autonomous personhood. It may be less overt in some people, but I feel that there’s an underlying desire in most humans to grow and do things that they’ve never done before and to take on new responsibilities and to push the boundaries of what they thought they were capable of. This desire seems to be especially heightened in people who commit themselves to creative work (i.e. art, music, writing, or anything that depends less on formulas than on innovation and imagination), and I have such a deep admiration for the creative minds of the earth because they can recognize and embrace this inherent desire to evolve, and use it to create something beautiful that will resonate with people and potentially outlast their physical existence. It’s just amazing, isn’t it?

That being said, I always have a hard time talking to my friends about a new album put out by a band that has previously recorded music that they loved. They usually say something along the lines of “Have you heard (band)’s new album? It’s so weird, it doesn’t sound anything like their last album! Why can’t they just replicate and re-replicate the sound that made me like them to begin with?!” Okay, maybe that last statement was more an inference than anything else, but you catch my drift. I’ve thought often about why the evolution of a band’s sound is so off-putting to the bulk of their fans, and I think it probably has a lot to do with comfort and expectation. We can latch onto a band’s sound and use that to define them, and then we expect them to always sound that way because definitions don’t change. There’s comfort in the familiarity of what a particular band is meant, to you, to sound like, so when they change it up a bit it can throw a person into a tailspin.

Which brings me back to the White Stripes. I think there is more to Jack White and more to Meg White than what defines them collectively as the White Stripes. And I think maybe they’ve realized that where they each want to go creatively is beyond the bounds of what the White Stripes can do. They’ve made incredibly innovative music within their genre, but maybe there comes a point where they’ve gone as far as they can go without turning into something else completely. Musicians go through sonic transformations all the time as a matter of course (Madonna, anyone?), but I think when the transformation is too much of a departure, it kind of takes away from the good music that they’ve made before, kind of cheapens it. I think ‘tis a far, far better thing for the White Stripes to disband now and preserve the magic of their music for the rest of time, than to keep churning out what is expected to be “White Stripes music” without any heart until their entire catalog of songs loses their meaning completely. As the White Stripes themselves said: The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to.” Isn’t that an incredible sentiment? The White Stripes are not just Jack and Meg, but rather a collective consciousness of all the people who love and support their music. I think it shows such care and affection not only for their fans, but also for the music they’ve created together over the course of more than thirteen years, to want to preserve the integrity of their music and not just keep doing it to make money, or to keep their fans happy, or even just for the hell of it. And that, in my opinion, is the sign of a true artist.

The Dude Abides.

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“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” – The Dude, The Big Lebowski

I am absolutely overwhelmed by how amazing this is. I could only hope for such creativity, to be able to use such a unique medium to create art. And Erika Iris Simmons chose a great subject, I must say.

Arghh, I want to make something now!

the art of fashion (in a completely un-ironic sense)

last week in my women’s studies class, we had a discussion about clothing and how the different ways that women dress can walk a fine line between confidence and desire for sexual attention. some students even went so far as to suggest, subtly, that women who dress provocatively are deserving of the stigma that surrounds the way they choose to dress themselves. i’ve been ruminating on this idea ever since, trying to make sense of what i believe are really reductive statements.

quick history lesson: in victorian england, everyone was enamored with the idea of physiognomy, or the notion that one could know a person’s inner morality just by observing their outward appearance. so if you were a pretty young woman, that meant that you were very moral and innocent; or if you had a large forehead, that meant that you were intelligent and passionate (or something equally ridiculous). then with the industrial revolution and the advent of cities, one had to be able to get a sense of the person walking next to them in the street in a split-second, because you didn’t have enough time to employ the “science” of physiognomy as you were passing them. so how did one get a sense of other people? by their clothing. if a man was dressed in the typical fashion of a middle-class gentleman, one could assume instantaneously that he was in fact a gentleman. this was how social mobility came to exist: by being able to look, and more specifically dress, the part of whoever you wanted to be.

i think this sentiment still exists today, especially for women. it’s so easy for women (and men, i suppose) to make value and character judgments on other women based on what they’re wearing. “her breasts are basically falling out of her top… she must be a slut. her skirt is so short that i have a detailed view of her reproductive organs… she just wants attention. she has a brand new fendi purse… she must be loaded.” these statements reduce women to a single dimension, to a caricature almost, and not based on anything other than the faux science of physiognomy. it’s a shame that women can’t dress to show off their bodies because they’re comfortable and happy with the way they look without being perceived as only trying to pique the male gaze and sexualize themselves; it’s a double-standard that men would never be forced to live by.

on a positive note, i think that clothing, and fashion in general, has that socially mobilizing effect today too. obviously, if you have something that’s expensive (or something that even just looks expensive) you will be perceived as a person of wealth. but even the variance of styles that one person can exhibit in the course of a week lends so much creativity and fluidity to embracing myriad aspects of oneself. that’s why i love VOGUE so much (and will defend it to the death against anyone who dares blaspheme its divinity): it’s not a trash magazine that focuses on celebrity gossip or diet fads or a wild sex life (coughCOSMOPOLITANcough), but a magazine that is truly dedicated to the art of fashion, to the movement and mobility of it, to the beauty of multi-dimensionality that can be expressed through clothing. have you ever seen a spread in VOGUE? the photography and production is gorgeous.

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the same woman can be serious and sophisticated in an yves saint laurent blouse and briefs, and then be quirky and fun-loving in a rochas floral silk blouse and skirt. she can interact with two men without being objectified, and be beautiful and alluring whilst fully clothes. despite all of the ads that appear in VOGUE, i somehow never feel like a consumer; i never feel like i’m being sold the current standard of sexy or “beauty.” seeing images like these in VOGE makes me feel like i’m allowed to be all the things that i am, that i can move from one creative interpretive ensemble to the next and still maintain my essence and my beauty and my layers, as a woman and as an individual.

and sometimes i feel like VOGUE is a lone wolf in that respect, and that i’m a lone wolf in experiencing the response that i have to it.