Art And Ego
Recently I have been reading a very interesting book titled "Thinking, Fast and Slow". It was written by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his work on human behavior and decision-making as it relates to economic choices. Mr. Kahneman is not an economist, but is a very close observer of human nature, who poses and tries to answer many questions about why and how we make certain choices in all aspects of our lives. In his book, he notes that optimism and confidence - even overconfidence - are important characteristics of research scientists. He states, " I have yet to meet a successful scientist who lacks the ability to exaggerate the importance of what he or she is doing, and I believe that someone who lacks a delusional sense of significance will wilt in the face of repeated experiences of multiple small failures and rare successes..."
This assertion resonated with me, for it reminded me of similar behaviors found in most artists. Art is a career that is fraught with economic uncertainty, and frequently meets with meager acclaim and slender financial rewards. Accordingly, artists must have a strong sense of purpose, and a strong ego to support their endeavors, They must believe that what they do is so important that it supersedes any other pursuit, and must be able to continue on their path despite the understanding that most other jobs offer more money and greater stability. For this reason, the study of art is for many a calling, and not a career in a traditional sense. That is certainly the case for me. Investigation, uncertainty, failure, striving, and restlessness are all married to the practice of art. In my case, all of these apply, and push me in a search for elusive Beauty, a quality which is easier recognized than produced. I would not have it any other way.
My visit to Mt. Rainier in Washington a few months back was the inspiration for my newest carved painting titled "Mt. Rainier: Cedar Roots, Petals, and Beargrass." This piece, like the "Avalanche Lilies" mentioned in a previous blog, was based on a hike up to Comet Falls. Many parts of the trail to the falls were in shade, covered by giant cedars and fir trees. The path was made highly uneven in spots because of the tree roots exposed by the passing hikers. This was the source for the left section of this panel - the criss-cross nature of these roots, which also resemble aerial photos of marshes and tide flats.
The middle section uses as its motif the same type of pattern found in "Avalanche Lilies:" I excerpted the petal shapes from that flower, enlarged them slightly, and placed them so that they would appear to be falling gracefully.
The right section features Bear Grass, which is blooming at this time of year. It is found in many parks at the sub-alpine elevation, and I have also seen it in Yosemite and at Glacier National Park in previous years.The bulbous flower is composed of many smaller blossoms, while the long, sturdy stalk appears almost hairy. The base has many thin grassy leaves that curve delicately, and intersect one another to form busy flowing lines.
What a memorable hike, and what lovely things to see!
I am a San Francisco artist who enjoys making art and visiting art exhibits.