Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Yesterday I was talking with my friend Neil Gore about the experience of creating art. I asked him whether he thought there is anyone who doesn't want to make art. This seems like kind of a silly question I guess. There are plenty of people who are not interested at all in sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, or for that matter music or literature! 

I asked Janet the same question today. She doesn't make art but she prepares wonderful dishes with grace and simplicity. They are works of art. 

She said there are lots of people who don't want to make art. Then she described half a dozen activities that she seemed to call "not art" like washing and shining your car (we don't have one) until it gleams. Or, as she put it, some people put their energy into house cleaning. I started to think of my years as a field biologist, the time I spent botanizing in nature, my many hours of preparing specimens in my basement lab at Harvard, and how much "centering" or "honing in" was involved in those activities.

So it got me to wondering, if it isn't art, can it still be "art?" In other words, if we look at art as a centering activity, one that commands focus, attention, and calm while providing relaxation and the opportunity to "get out of oneself," can we recognize some kind of relationship between "art" and "non-art"?

I actually had a similar conversation with Lucy the other day when we talked about focusing on a math problem, or a young child focusing on a play activity. The kind of intense, intimate channeling of energy, call it "centering," that is nevertheless totally outside of this a similar cognitive space to the one in which art is created?

Maybe there's a way to further break down the question. For one thing, leave the product out of it and focus on the process. So the process of intense focus that makes art or inspires you to polish your car...what is it?

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