Does suffering enhance [photographic] creativity?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. If so, how? How has that creativity been manifested in specific works, genres, or movements?
    My first thoughts were of creative individuals who have suffered from no known social discrimination or other stigma, but then my thoughts went to one of my favorite playwrights, Federico García Lorca, and from there it occurred to me to look at members of groups who have often suffered from exclusion from Anglo-Saxon (or other) society (blacks, Jews, gays, etc.).
    The question is open-ended. I know nothing about this topic, although I see numerous allusions here and there to a link between suffering and creativity.
    I have to say, though, that some of my more productive years (in political philosophy, not photography) have been some of my hardest years--and so I would not be averse to hearing some personal testimony from those who can link their own photographic output or progress to their own personal travail.
    --Lannie
     
  2. It's always been a odd kind of romantic notion that mental illness is somehow responsible for artistic achievement. From Van Gogh cutting off part of his ear, to the suicide of Diane Arbus, to many more too numerous to cite here, it's a great contributor to the stuff of legend. Perhaps it has something to do with the way we look at great artists. Many people are creative, in fact just about all of us are in childhood; the trick is to keep that into adulthood. However, most of us do not posses the talent of Mozart, or Dali, or similar titans of the art world. So we look at the lives of these special and unique individuals to try to find where their talent and inspiration comes from. The "Ah-Ha" moment comes when we find the skeletons in the closet. Since most people are not mentally ill or have gotten treatment previously, it's a easy way to attribute artistic talent to this reason. We all have ups and downs in life, this is unavoidable. In the cases I mentioned above, we can only guess what Van Gogh may have painted if he were of sound mind. We can only guess what photographs Arbus would have gone on to make had she not committed suicide. In a way, one could argue that individuals like these, may have created better work had they been more stable. I agree. I think the more mentally and emotionally healthy a person is, the more they will be able to utilize whatever talent they have to it's fullest potential.
     
  3. Marc, not all suffering derives from mental illness.
    --Lannie
     
  4. I always seem to take better shots after setting my hair on fire and putting it out with a hammer.
     
  5. Adversity (and especially overcoming it) makes one a more interesting person. People who have become more
    interesting have more interesting things to communicate, in more interesting ways. Photography being communication,
    you see where this is headed.

    That said, I find John's experience to be spot on. He's on fire, and really nailed that one.
     
  6. True Lannie, but is suffering not a choice then? If I get diagnosed with terminal cancer I can choose to suffer or I can choose to not to. If I choose to suffer, then perhaps there is something wrong with the way I think i.e something irrational about me? Mental illness? Maybe, maybe not.
     
  7. Marc, your last post confuses me. Are you suggesting that anyone who is not mentally ill but who suffers does so only by their own choice? If so--especially given your scenario of terminal cancer--you must have a very different definition of "suffer" than the rest of us do.
     
  8. I know artists who are also "depressives". When they're in that condition their creative work stops. They are consumed with their seeming "problems". On the other hand, many people who have come through adversity are often spiritually "reborn". This frees up their creativity. With positive feelings of security and happiness, they become willing to be expansive and to try new things.
    It's not only creativity as an artist but in all activities that people's performances improve when they're spiritually reborn. But I also believe there are some where mental imbalances accentuate both creativity and life problems because of the way their brain is.
     
  9. Probably for masochists and people who can't feel anything any other way.
     
  10. Yep, Luis, people like Michelangelo and Van Gogh. . . .
    Google search for "suffering and creativity" (lots of links):
    http://www.google.com/search?q=suffering+and+creativity&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:eek:fficial&client=firefox-a
    The links do not relate to photography per se, but they are about suffering and creativity in general.
    There's more:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Agony_and_the_Ecstasy_%28novel%29
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lust_for_Life_%28novel%29
    Again, however, I can find nothing about photographers in all the above.
    --Lannie
     
  11. Lannie, I do not think their suffering made them as artists, although it cannot be separated from their history. It was reflected in their art because they were superb artists. And let's not forget that some of Van Gogh's best work was done when he was happy with, or in anticipation of, Gauguin. What makes these and other artists who encountered great suffering is that they took it and ran with it, that it did not paralyze them as it has so many.
    The Buddha tells us everything that lives must suffer, but nothing about that making us all great artists.
    You could answer your own question and get back to us. Maybe buy something like this:
    http://www.cilice.co.uk/
    ...and get back to us in a few weeks and let us know how the art is coming along.
     
  12. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I believe it's backwards. Artists suffer because a) society doesn't have room for artists, b) creative pursuits are usually only considered worthwhile if they bring financial gain, and c) there isn't enough financial gain from creative pursuits for almost everyone that does it, they end up living as a pauper.
     
  13. creative pursuits are usually only considered worthwhile if they bring financial gain​
    Amen to that, Jeff. The same goes for the humanities in our educational institutions. No one respects them anymore, it seems. The money goes for science and technology, not the liberal arts.
    --Lannie
     
  14. http://www.cilice.co.uk/
    Hah! The old hair shirt! Ah, but Luis, I am not doing penance. Maybe I should, but I am not.
    --Lannie
     
  15. Light-weight full length waist cilice made by Italian Nuns - $65.00 USD. Price includes shipping.​
    You gotta love it, Luis. Thank you for that one.
    --Lannie
     
  16. Lannie - "I am not doing penance. Maybe I should, but I am not."
    Not about penance, just gratuitous suffering, in order to test your hypothesis. I think the prices are also meant to increase and/or extend the levels of suffering. Of course, it was a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. I didn't really think you'd do it, even to improve your creativity or get closer to God (if it worked). :)
     
  17. I believe it's backward. Artists suffer because a) society doesn't have room for artists, b) creative pursuits are usually only considered worthwhile if they bring financial gain, and c) there isn't enough financial gain from creative pursuits for almost everyone that does it, they end up living as a pauper.​
    Artists do make a living from their art. Whether they are carpenters, singers on the circuits, dancers, actors, musicians, or photographers. Maybe not a million bucks, but a living. On the other hand, maybe many self-proclaimed artists are not honest enough about their ability that they think they should be making a million bucks and have international acclaim when really they should have a day job and practice their artistic skills as a hobby like most people in this and other photo sites. It's not the world's fault they can't become famous. Heck I once thought I should be President. But I got over it.
     
  18. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I would recommend some testing of the hypothesis. Take some photos that you think are creative. Then get nailed to a cross for a day or two. They still do this in some very remote areas in Spain, so you can probably do it there. It might be better to do it upside down and get the nails put through your feet so you can hold the camera afterwards. When you get taken down, go out and shoot some photos that you think are creative. Do your own comparison and send them out for peer review. Let us know what the results are.
     
  19. Exactly what in the world would drive a perfectly happy person to become an obsessive super-achiever? Suffering enhances creativity... it's that simple. And, I would trade all the creativity in the world for a moment's happiness. On the other hand, while unhappiness might provide a drive (to perform or escape), the nature to escape will simultaneously also block potential creative decisions. Blessed is the one who was once sad and is now happy.
    There might be at least one example where someone forcibly nailed to a cross has been known to have a remarkably different outlook towards life from that of the ones who nailed him.
    A question here which also (self) references my earlier question here.
     
  20. some how i think that experience is what drives creativity. suffering, in its many forms, is simply one kind of experience and is probably no more or no less a factor in the creative process than other states of the human condition.
     
  21. I'm in line with Christopher. Experience, emotional experience, life experience in general, coupled with artistic technical skills, makes up the basic sources of creativity. Suffering, is one such type of experience, but extreme happiness and self-fulfillment in life is indeed another.
    Personally, I'm clearly nearer he latter than the first - whether artistic creativity is one of my characteristics or not.
     
  22. With some photographers you suffer after seeing their photos.
     
  23. Probably yes. But I would say 'strong emotions' trigger creativity; Both happiness and sorrow
     
  24. Everything I need to know in life I learned from the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon show (so you have some hint as to my age). I believe it was on the "Mr. Know-it-all" segment where Bullwinkle (Mr. Know-it-all) was asked how to become a great artist. I can still hear the response in my mind, "You gotta suffer!" Enough said.
     
  25. Some creative friends are bipolar. This seems to be too common among famous artists, too. Perhaps the intense concentration they sometimes exhibit results in work that seems like the product of genius to us who lack that capability.
     
  26. Responding to my own question, I have never agonized over a photo, though exposure and post-processing can certainly be frustrating at times.
    I have, however, truly agonized over some of the issues that I have grappled with in ethical theory and political philosophy. I think that the reason, though, is that I have often been wrestling with myself, trying to figure out what I truly believed. The writing, and the multiple rewriting, has often been very intense.
    I have not read Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy, nor seen the movie, about the life of Michelangelo. I am tempted now to do so. Nor have I read or seen the movie version of Stone's Lust for Life, about Vincent van Gogh. They might be worth looking into.
    The person whose emotion seems to come through most strongly in his work on this forum is Fred Goldsmith, but so far he has not weighed in. I hope that he does, because I am sure that he would have something worth saying on this subject.
    --Lannie
     
  27. With some photographers you suffer after seeing their photos.​
    John's remarks are right and shows, as far as I see it, a clear sense of understanding of the role of much art: Making the viewers questioning themselves and their self-righteousness, destroying expectations and opening up to borderlands of unknown aesthetics, provoking new creative understandings of reality. This is "suffering" or at least anything but comforting.
     
  28. Anders: My comment was meant to be a little flip, but you make a great point. I think the great photographers and great artists in general do agonize over their work. The subjective (and at times objective) analysis we do of our own work is really what makes the next effort better. Once that struggle stops work tends to stagnate.
     
  29. My answer to Lannie's original question is ' Yes, but drugs do it faster'.
    I think that creativity in some part is an altered perspective of the common. Suffering alters perspective which results in the 'common' being presented in a different way. Drugs do the same, but they make holding the camera and a bag of Doritos at the same time much more difficult. In other words, having an altered perspective may be creative, but it doesn't mean beans unless you can get it across to others.
    Regards, John
     
  30. Perhaps we could create two lists: artists who have suffered (or are suffering) and artists who have not suffered (of course we'll have to define what one means by "suffering"-- after all, we all suffer a bit from time to time). Let's compare the works and see if it reveals anything about the work or artist.
    I seem to remember a quote attributed to William Faulkner that went,"I write when the spirit moves me; and it moves me every day." Perhaps perserverance--even in the face of suffering--is what makes the artist.
     
  31. Suffering can force a person to acquire depth. Needless choice of suffering may indicate a lack of depth. So it can work either way.
     
  32. My guess of an answer to Lannie's original question is: sometimes yes, sometimes no, and a lot of the time we don't know.
    Suffering can be the result of external adversity making life harder, of more or less internal causes (like mental illness, unrequited love, addiction/compulsion to innovate, etc etc), or of the damaging interactions between both. Suffering can for example result in, but also be the result of, extreme social isolation or feelings of otherness/not-belonging. Being an outsider can give you unusual ideas and perspectives that are well outside the norm, and thus provide the raw material for creative expression. Sometimes creativity is the only channel for torrential release of pent-up emotions. So in those cases: yes.
    At other times however the answer is decidedly no: protracted isolation & emotional stifling will lead to depression = shutdown of any and all creative faculties = the exact opposite of channeling & release. Then again, a lot of creative people would (have) be(en) diagnosed as bipolar by present standards, meaning that they cycle(d) through both states and periods of great creativity alternating with lack of any meaningful output.
    And in many cases we have no way of knowing. It's not like you can test what someone's creative output could have been, had they gone through a life of greater/lesser suffering instead of their actual lives. Unless maybe you have an identical twin who is better/worse off than you and subscribes to more/fewer photo forums, uploads more/fewer photos and gets higher/lower ratings on average? :)
     
  33. I think that creativity in some part is an altered perspective of the common.​
    John, that is quite profound and has implications beyond the question that I raised. I will have to think about that one some more. I can see another question here if someone wants to post it: "Is creativity an altered perspective of the common?"
    (By the way, on an entirely different topic, I have noticed that these postings get more responses if posed as questions.)
    --Lannie
     
  34. Labor Day weekend I had a bad show, REALLY BAD. Saturday was the monsoon and the flood 1/2 of my stock was water damaged. Sunday I set up with repaired and undamaged stock, then three hours into the day as things started to pick up steam, tent collapse. 100% of frames and stock damaged.
    As a friend of mine would put it was "a real God damn it". We packed up and I cried for an hour, then pouted for 36 more hours. Tuesday night about 10:00 it was clear, still and warm perfect for a night shoot I grabbed my camera, favorite lens and depressed as hell went out and shot neon, lights and facades. In about 90 minutes I did some of the best work I have done all year, it set me up to start repairing, remounting and in general getting ready for last weekends show.
    Is suffering the mother of creativity? I can't tell you but I really hit rock bottom Labor Day Weekend and haven't stopped climbing out since.
     
  35. stp

    stp

    Personally, I don't think suffering (defined as experiencing deep [please don't ask me how deep] mental or physical pain for a significant period of time [please don't ask me how long it has to be to be significant] makes one more creative per se, but it often does provide the motivation to engage in artistic pursuits that may have either been absent or present to a much lesser degree prior to the suffering. I'm coming from the point of view that a portion of a person's ability to be creative is innate, and that portion is not affected one way or the other by suffering. However, to the extent that a portion of one's ability to be creative can be learned (i.e., affected by experience), then obviously creativity might be enhanced by suffering (or even diminished, depending on how the person deals with or integrates the suffering).
     
  36. I skipped everything above so I could write my own thoughts untainted.
    Many of the most creative minds (not all) have some sort of ability to have a multiplicity of viewpoints.
    One viewpoint can be helpful in creating a multi-point art. If you see the world from a black and white viewpoint and it never varies, then it is likely that your art, whether writing, photography, playwriting (if that is at all possible) etc., is likely to be pretty cut and dried, and reflect a black and white viewpoint.
    The good novelist is able to see things from the viewpoint from each of the characters, and that involves an ability to transcend the novelist's personal experience to become involved in the character of each of the individuals whom the novelist seeks to portray.
    Dickens was famous for his portrayals. He was an astute observer of humans and the human condition.
    Consider from the Pickwick papers this description of the character 'Joe'.
    'The object that presented itself to the eyes of the astonished clerk, was a boy--a wonderfully fat boy--habited as a serving lad, standing upright on the mat, with his eyes closed as if in sleep.
    'Joe is constantly hungry, very red in the face and is always falling asleep in the middle of tasks.
    '"Sleep!" said the old gentleman, 'he's always asleep. Goes on errands fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table."

    '"How very odd!" said Mr. Pickwick.

    '"Ah! odd indeed," returned the old gentleman; "I'm proud of that boy--wouldn't part with him on any account--he's a natural curiosity!"'
    In fact, Dickens was such an acute observer for this relatively minor character that in modern times what eventually became known as the Pickwickian syndrome eventually has become known as the Pickwickian HypOventilation Disorder - the inability of a very obese person to take deep breaths and consequently his/her inability to ventilate well, leading to an abnormal amount of sleepiness. That has lead to its link to sleep apnea.
    Was it Dickens' suffering? I don't know, but he was an acute observer. If one is so comfortable in one's existence that the world just passes by and one does not observe what is passing by, one is not likely to know or inquire why the Joes of this world who are obese are not breathing deeply, are sleepy all the time and thus are 'oddities' to be described in one's writing.
    Dickens was a master of the verbal picture.
    If you are not curious, it may be because you have a singular point of view and that may be because you have not had your point of view challenged by others or by your internal mental processes. Those processes can happen as your mood or emotions vary or sometimnes 'swing' from one point to another as they do in persons with 'mood swing' [bi-polar disorder] or hypomania and hypodepressive disorder which are phases in which bi-polar disorder is not fully-blown.
    James Thurber, who wrote of characters that daydreamed nearly impossible dreams may have himself had a rare condition in which he himself daydreamed extensively, and turned it instead of suffering into a wonderful art form adored by millions and millions (see for instance his character Walter Mitty and his daydreams). Thurber got rich over writing of such daydreaming character(s),so it's not so clear he suffered, but it's true he was an artist, and if he was afflicted, he turned it to his fortune and became famous for it.
    Those who have had mental/emotional challenges, whether form mental and/or emotional illness, substance use/and or abuse (notice that not all 'use' is 'abuse') and other conditions which may lead to different mental states, not all of which are 'suffering' but may lead to one experiencing a multiplicity of viewpoints, are more likely to be able to see things from more than one point of view.
    While a person who only has one point of view (Think Ayn Rand perhaps), may indeed make a successful novelist (thus artist), think of those who must weave a tapestry in their novels of various characters with various predilections, personalities, viewpoints and characters, then follow and work those characters into a whole that somehow 'works'. That requires some mental gynmanistics, and is far from the ability of most, and requires some facility generally with dialog as well as reaching into the various mindsets of different individuals and various social sets and subsets.
    In order to have experience with those characters, one has to have had some ability to 'experience' either personally or through study of those persons the ability to emphasize or at least assimilate the characteristics of those personalities enough to portray them well and realistically enough that their use in a novel setting 'works'.
    I have hitherto written about the 'novel' setting because it literally almost cries for the novelist (or the playwright, who is a close cousin) to climb in the skin of each character and present that character's side while at the same time keeping a central theme in mind and weaving that presentation with those of others characters and then into the entire novels themes and sub themes.
    Creating art, to the extent it requires concentration, may by itself lead to the abnegation of some personal wants, just because of the concentration it requires. Concentration of such intensity may require giving up other comforts for those who are not supremely gifted and for whom such work does not come easily and it comes easily to a very few of the successful.
    Cartier-Bresson, quited in his unauthorized biography, a work told to a French journalist who published it without authorization after Cartier-Bresson's death, recalled in one of their many, many meetings (which the journalist recorded afterward), a famous artist calling at a neighbor's house.
    The artist was poorly dressed and apparently disheveled, but was one of the most gifted and ultimately most famous artists the early 20th C. France, calling on a patron, but rather surreptitiously because of his down and out look. He was described as being almost looking like a bum calling at his rich patron's home (Cartier-Bresson's family was patrician -- one of France's top 200 most wealthy).
    Good art and good dress and demeanor do not always go hand in hand, but that does not mean they cannot.
    Suffering does not make good artists. Many who suffer have no aftistic inclination or talent.
    Good artists may suffer because of afflictions, and those afflictions may allow them to concentrate on their art or even CAUSE them to concentrate on their art, in part because for some it's all they can do or it's what they feel driven to do for whatever reason.
    A Photo.net member write me that when he sees my photos he 'HEARS' my photographs audibly and even has written me a piano composition (two in fact) of what it is he hears. (they're beautiful, moving and haunting).
    However, and as much as he has suffered for his own art (and he is an acclaimed painting artist in former times much exhibited, who has moved on, and is both a photographer and an accomplished commercial graphic artist, the suffering did not necessarily make him an accomplished artist but may have been just part of his personality and his success came from his talent.
    He bore a burden (and a gift) that others did not bear.
    I tend to think of it as a gift, but others may feel differently (I will not name him.)
    My photos literally caused him to hear sounds -- sometimes melodious and sometimes dissonant - and he sought to share them with me.
    (that particular deviation from 'normal' actually is very rare and is medically named, but I won't attempt to replicate that name here . . . as it's outside the bounds of this discussion.)
    Artists who are incredibly devoted may abnegate all other things for their art, and in that way if they lead a unidirectional life and derive no other pleasures in their quest solely for their art and if their art is not well received (think Van Gogh) then they may indeed suffer.
    However, one can posit that if Van Gogh's art were well received in his lifetime, that he might have had a much happier end -- even been the toast of the town in Paris and his name might not have ended up synonymous with 'suffering' and 'suicide' of the supposedly 'failed artist' who was 'sick with melancholia'.
    That of course is speculation.
    But if his brother Theo had succeeded in selling his work at high prices, who knows?
    We might have different ideas about artistic success even today.
    Did Michaelangelo suffer?
    He certainly had his wealthy sponsors. It cost enormous sums to take those huge blocks of rock (oh, I forgot, stone) quarry them, move them, and then work on them to create his various Davids, etc.)
    Working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel certainly sounds like grueling work, but when I, with my aching post-operative neck and back, go out with impossibly heavy cameras on unsteady legs, and make a great or near-great capture, I find that the suffering I undergo, becomes LESSENED by the joy of creating something wonderful that maybe will outlast me.
    Did Michaelangelo even feel pain from painting the Sistene Chapel of was it pure joy?
    One thing is certain in my mind: If a person has suffered from a mental process that causes that person to experience a variety of experiences and from a variety of viewpoints, that person is somewhat richer when it comes to the art of portraying those viewpoints and in relating to those he seeks to portray.
    Imagine Rush Limbaugh trying to interview a bum on the street and asking the bum how he makes it from day to day living on meager Social Security or SSI.
    Now, if one views my own photographs, imagine me asking the same questions of that bum and then ask yourself, who is likely to get the fuller picture of that individual's life experiences and thus to make a better judgment of who exactly that individual is?
    Of Rush Limbaugh and John Crosley, who is more likely to have sampled the rich tapestry of life, not only with the rich and famous (as I have too), but of the lower half of life as well, and who can portray ALL sides well?
    I think the answer should be most revealing and helps answer the question you posited Lannie.
    [I freehanded this answer at 60 wpm.
    [It is not a polished or finished essay, but merely some semi-random thoughts tossed together, and I stand ready to be challenged on any/and/or all points.]
    I hope it adds to the discussion.
    john
    John (Crosley)
     
  37. Thank you, Jane Rickard, for a wonderful story. I have a story similar to that to tell about one single lecture (in my whole life) that got me a standing ovation, a lecture that I gave immediately after getting news from a colleague that he and some others were not going to support my bid for tenure (back in the late 1980s). I was crushed but had to go immediately to class, and so I threw my whole heart and soul into what I said that day (and I don't even remember what it was). Later that school year, I would find out that I would be awarded tenure after all, but it meant less to me than the standing ovation of my students--the only one up to that time, and there have been none since.
    John, you are always the true photojournalist--and more. I cannot begin to offer anything worthy of being called a response. I can only offer this: from whence comes empathy if not from some personal suffering so that one might identify with the oppressed, the downtrodden, or the simply unfortunate? How that might translate into photography is not certain, but this one by Tony Dummett suggests that it can:
    http://www.photo.net/photo-of-the-week-discussion-forum/0045U6
    I do want to thank both of you for taking the question seriously, and for writing here from the heart with all you had.
    --Lannie
     
  38. Did Michaelangelo even feel pain from painting the Sistene Chapel of was it pure joy?​
    John, that gets into the therapeutic value of creative activity--a separate and yet curiously related question, I believe.
    I retreat to photography and to Photo.net to post a picture from time to time to simply forget about other madness in my life--such as my work situation. The madness or suffering of that "other life" does not make me a better photographer, in this case, but the photography gets me through some rough times. Its therapeutic value is without question.
    So perhaps we have two questions:
    (1) Does suffering emhance photographic creativity?
    (2) Is photography or other creative activity therapeutic?
    No matter what the truth is as to the first question, I do not hesitate to answer the second in the affirmative.
    --Lannie
     
  39. Lannie,
    I think you give me too much credit.
    While I did write from the heart, I also wrote at 60 words per minute, and I just threw together some thoughts that had been churning, bubbling and ready to burst out after some internal ferment for a rather long time, which I had not thought thoroughly through, so they are just preliminary thoughts and not some 'essay' as I am wont to write with fully formed thoughts.
    You have a gift for asking good questions, and I responded in the spirit of helping foster the discussion rather than positing dispositive answers, as I have none, though I have some thoughts that I think are interesting and were worth discussing at least.
    In today's New York times there is an article about destructive altruism -- people who give until it becomes destructive, and in the same sense (or in some corollary sense) it may be posited that for some artists that the very act of creating is too all-absorbing or even addictive (as one way of explaining it) that it harms other parts of their lives, and for some it even causes them to shorten or end their lives. (Van Gogh for instance? Or was his depression and/or insanity exogenous to his art? That's a chicken or egg question of course.)
    Certainly Van Gogh with his taste for very, very young women (girls even) would have had a tough slog in today's modern society, and would possibly have ended up imprisoned if he had not conformed to today's legal standards. [just take a look at his bio in Wikipedia.org for a primer].
    He similarly was noncomformist in any number of other ways and distinctively 'weird' in any number of other personal mannerisms and lifestyles, but nevertheless a genius with a paint brush, paints and colors.
    An artist need not be 'weird' to be artistic or successful or even seen as a genius as his art.
    Chopin was a toast of Paris with his piano artistry, yet he distinctly was not 'weird', and he had entree into high society there because of his artistry, but didn't seem compelled to misbehave, nor does my cursory reading of his history (nor of Liszt either) seem to suggest that either of those two piano geniuses suffered overmuch in Paris as they practiced their genius.
    I think one can be a happy artist is one's art is accepted and if one is productive, but if one's art is rejected and one is compelled to produce, then one is bound to have possibly an unhappy time.
    In contrast or in opposition, however, recently I went to a Los Angeles exhibition at a gallery of the work of hitherto unknown street photographic great Vivian Maier, a nanny, whose negatives were found in a storage locker and now are being exhbited by their buyers after her death.
    Nothing in her biography, info found from her former employers, suggests that for the great art she produced that she was particularly troubled -- she seemed content to produce her great street photography, not exhibit it, keep it sealed up and stored, and eventually die with it unexhibited, apparently lost for all time (but resurrected, for the world to see, fortunately, as I found on viewing her wonderful work) without any qualms about it.
    Generalizations don't work too well in evaluating the 'artist' in terms of 'suffering', although I would suggest that for certain types of art, a range of mental states can be helpful in being creative - and that may include certain mental states, such as depression and elation, bipolar disorder, (a more severe form) psychosis (when it's managed and not completely, 100% disabling), and even altered states, just related to life experiences which many people pass through, not to mention altered states caused by certain substances.
    Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe comes to mine, as well as numerous late 19th C. and early 20th C. authors and poets who indulged in cocaine, heroin, opium, absinthe or liquor when each was less illegal and more available and thus more all were more accepted parts of living the artistic and bohemian life as they sought altered states.
    Drink often has been a companion of successful novelists. Truman Capote, Cartier-Bresson's companion as Cartier-Bresson traveled America photographing it in the 40s, eventually did not write anything significant as he drank his life away at the end, I understand.
    Drink often has been a novelist's companion, I am told, but it was never a necessity.
    It's easy to have stereotypes, but I am unaware of any true scientific studies on this subject.
    (This comment also keyboarded at 60 wpm).
    ;~)
    john
    John (Crosley)
    (good discussion, lannie)
     
  40. I responded in the spirit of helping foster the discussion rather than positing dispositive answer​
    I think that the reason that that works, John, is that the question is for me a jumping off point in a forum like this, not a question in a philosophy journal. We do well to allow others full expression, even if it sometimes takes us far afield. There is no way that one is going to "discipline" an online forum. Let it go where it will. . . . No one person really sets the agenda here, least of all the person who asks the original question. Questions morph. New insights come to mind. We can afford to let our threads here be less disciplined and more. . . creative. Let if flow--and, wow, do you ever do that!
    I do thank you for your great thoughts. I won't try to refute a word you say above--because I cannot.
    --Lannie
     
  41. Is photography or other creative activity therapeutic?​
    Not more than anything else I do with passion. If I did not do it, I would suffer or find substitutions.
     

  42. There is plenty of suffering in the world. Read the news.
    <br />
    By that take there should be masterpieces being produced on a spit second bases. I struggle to understand why anyone would need to be poor and starving to produce Art or anything else for that matter. Of course a believer in suffering, to produce High Art, could prove me wrong by injecting themselves with Leprosy..any takers?. Or, they could cut their dicks off so all that stuff goes straight to their brain producing High Art. They then could change their name to Richard Head and become famous...
    <br /><br />
    Some folk are wired a bit differently from others so perhaps that helps them to see a bit further around corners.
    <br /><br />
    Just a few thoughts.
     
  43. Hmm.
    Rather than saying 'suffering creates art' it might in some circumstances be more useful to say that 'art is a response to the fear of suffering'.
    I think that for some creative/ill people 'art' enables a degree of control over the chaos of their existence they would not otherwise have. If one is unable to 'manage' ones personal circumstances or finds the world a daunting prospect, the considerable control that being an artist brings is perhaps a liberation, and a necessity. Some may not even find it (art) a pleasurable experience, and laden with risk and fear of failure, but consider it infinitely preferable to not doing 'art'.
     
  44. I have posted in several forums over the years and I perhaps have a bad habit of expanding my narratives a bit longer than absolutely necessary. That said, compared to the length of John Crosley's contribution--several pages back--I'm downright terse.
    Marc Todd made some lovely points about suffering, anguish and madness (paraphrasing) not being particularly necessary for the creation of great art. And if some of those artists who had famously suffered from mental problems (again, I paraphrase) had had their illnesses cured their art might have been all the better. I couldn't disagree more. Stand in front of a painting like Van Gogh's Wheatfield with Crows and your eyes will water at the creative rage that consumed this artist's psyche. A man with a 'normal' mind couldn't have possibly painted like this.
    'Normalcy,' whatever that is, is just another word for banality to the truly creative mind. I would suggest that finding any great artist in any field of endeavor, not just a talented person, but an individual with an outstanding gift will, by cognitive necessity, exhibit signs of behavioral 'abnormality.' And yes, great art is often created by some of the most troubled and troublesome people. Great art is compelled to disrupt the status quo. And that compulsion, the drive to create that level art is certainly not 'normal.' It may very well be, as we're now discovering, a form of creative 'madness.'
    I am certainly not diminishing the sadness and suffering of those whose mental demons have robbed them of any hope of living content and satisfying lives. But any art, great or otherwise that conforms to the status quo--what is 'normal,' in the conventional sense--is not art: it's kitsch.
     
  45. OK, Chris, you have convinced me. I'm ready to cut off an ear. I'm just not sure which one. Is it OK if I cut off one of Matt's ears?
     
  46. I suffer every time I look in a mirror, but I suffer more when I try to respond to one of these leave it to Beaver questions.like "Jeez Wally, I was just thinking.. do you think suffering enhances creativity?? Jeez, I don't know why I wanna know, just kinda curious I guess..." But yes, questions like this make me want to rush out and take photographs instead of reading forums and so I guess suffering can enhance creativity.
     
  47. Ok, to be less flippant, you could argue that someone like Frieda Kalo's art was informed and arose out of deeply personal suffering, Munch, Van Gogh there's a long long list of people who suffered and were great artist. Some suffered because, as others have said,they never recieved the recognition by society when alive, others just had great internal pain that they lived with, others great physical pain and everything in between.
    The question begs itself though as to whether the act of creation itself arises out of suffering. And of course "suffering" is a term of degree, from mild discomfort to raging pain of some kind. To me suffering represents a blockage, some kind of block of energy, and personally, when I'm "suffering" I can't create. My function doesn't. Its blocked and its a chicken and egg effect as well, but there's no drive to be creative. Some would say, I never create anyways but I at least, feel that my best work arises from when I'm enthralled enough with what I'm doing, even if I'm just doing a job, to create a real interest. Sometimes just doing something which seems mundane to me like going through 5 or 600 photographs of my vacation or a wedding, I find myself becoming engrossed and then things start to happen. But never when I'm in any state dramatic enough to be called "suffering". Then I don't want to shoot pictures, or post-process and edit at all.
     
  48. I wouldn't have you suffer for anything, Barry. But even you have to admit that when you're 'enthralled' or 'engrossed' (your expressions) with your work you are certainly not in a 'normal' state of mind. Perhaps after five pages of verbage we should all retire the worn adjectives pain, suffering, and agony and go with something like...passion?
     
  49. Bingo Chris. But not so un-normal, I do basically enjoy my life. I think I should have just stick with my first post. Anyways, I'd rather read a good book than wade through all this.
     
  50. Plenty of people suffer without creating anything at all someone else would care to see. Van Gogh was not the only patient in the asylum. In fact, he was not the only resident of the town he died in. Why don't we know anything about his next door neighbor? Or the butcher? ... etc.
    There must be something else going on. We have to judge creativity by the works it produces. I think it is impossible to clearly identify the exact substance behind every decision that goes into making a finished work. It's a fun diversion perhaps to pretend that we can understand what is in another person's mind, but pointless.
    Of course the suffering this thread produced in me did stimulate these creative remarks!
     
  51. It's a fun diversion perhaps to pretend that we can understand what is in another person's mind, but pointless. ​
    We dont have to understand it to appreciate that something is at work in certain ill people that is not necessarily going on in the minds of 'ordinary' people. I've worked professionally in the field of disability for over 20 years (as well as being a professional photographer) and been involved in numerous art projects, working closely with art therapists and psychologists, and mentally ill or seriously disturbed people.
    Some of the work I've seen produced by very ill institutionalised people has been quite remarkable. Some such as a series of grossly overworked, obsessionally scribbled archetypes were really disturbing simply to look at as a viewer, but considered as glimpses of the inner working of the artist, were not pointless but really useful in providing some insight, which informed the ongoing psychological treatment and assistance offered. But they also possessed a remarkable beauty and depth that was palpable.
    Another 'unusual' man I worked with created wonderful animals from trash - beautifully evocative creatures that really captured some essence of the subject. And I could list numerous others, some of whose work is regarded as 'famous' within the circle of study of such 'outsider' art.
    Recent project I've been tangentially involved in used photography as a vehicle to allow people with depression living in remote rural areas to express themselves. The range of people involved was surprising and the quality of work produced equally surprising. The links between the illness and the quality of the work? I have no clear idea, but I've seen enough to understand that when it comes to creative activity there are forces at work within us that we can only guess at, but would be foolish to ignore.
    I have a pair of beautiful paintings on my wall - a gift from a man I met by chance in Washington State, and in whose house I discovered a treasure trove of work. He was driven to paint, literally hundreds of canvases littered the house, every spare space was covered in them, and the only way he could get into bed each night was to lift off several stacks of pictures to pile on the floor to create some lying-down space.
    These are powerful forces and all of us so-called creative people should be mindful of that, as we swing to and fro on the seesaw of mental equilibrium.
     
  52. Of course the suffering this thread produced in me did stimulate these creative remarks!​
    And Barry's suffering upon reading wading "through all this" has impelled him to read a book--not necessarily a creative act, but a worthy one, Albert. We shall perhaps live to see if it bears fruit.
    In a more serious vein, I would like to remind some of the earlier posters that I have not advanced a thesis that suffering promotes or advances creativity. In fact, I have not advanced any thesis whatsoever. Theses are always assertions, and they are always stated in the declarative mood/mode. I have simply asked a question, and questions always are stated in the interrogatory mood/mode. Some responses have very nearly been stated in the exclamatory mood/mode.
    I do believe now, upon reflection, that creative work often involves suffering, if the intensity of effort is great enough--and creative persons are often intense persons who perhaps more nearly endure or tolerate suffering than are motivated by it. In any case, I do think that the relationship between suffering and creativity is probably complicated--and probably does not admit of any easy answers. There might well be some persons whose suffering has impelled them to seek a creative outlet in order to alleviate the mental anguish. One need not assume that such persons are psychotic, at least not as the term is commonly used. On another front, I do not doubt that creative activity can be therapeutic.
    If the thread has produced more glee than suffering, I cannot say that I am unhappy about that. Perhaps someone will be inspired to write a doctoral dissertation in psychology or art history on one of the issues raised here. I have personally found everyone's remarks instructive, including the most flippant ones. As for my personal inspiration for posing the question, it was probably the old television show "Laugh In," in which Dick Martin, after being hit over the head or otherwise subjected to some sort of abuse, would always smile and say, "I'm a better man for all that," or words to that effect.
    I am grateful to Eddy Haskel for his appearance on the thread in several different incarnations. I wouldn't want anyone to feel left out.
    --Beaver Cleaver
     
  53. John MacPherson, what a beautiful post! We cross-threaded, and I hope that my post did not cause yours to be overlooked.
    I hope that everyone goes back a couple of posts to read yours in its entirety.
    --Lannie
     
  54. I agree that creativity an suffering may be linked, but I think it is more correct to say that creativity and emotion is linked.
    I've found that "suffering" damages my photographic creativity, but it enhances my musical creativity and vice versa.

    I've never met people who are left-brained dominated (math-geeks, physics majors, chess-players etc) that are also creative in the art department and I have rarely come across people who are great artists, but at the same time are great at math, physics and typical logical subjects.
    Some may argue that the likes of Einstein and Miclelangelo are personality types that have equally active brain-halves, that enables that person to be logically-creative, seeing concepts in logic never seen before.

    The left side of the brain is said to be home to emotion and art, I am 100% sure they are closely linked and that they can enhance or influence each other and various parts of each other.

    One artist once said that melancoly is the joy of being sad, but different moods can producs different artistic expressions or influence other parts of creativity.
    Also, I saw a very interesting program about brain damage and creativity once (BBC), where they followed a few individuals who had suffer strokes or other kinds of damage to their brains, suddenly the left side went haywire and they become hyper creative in painting, music and so on, even though they might have been pretty dead art-wise before their accidents.
     
  55. Correction: Right side is home to emotion and art.
     
  56. Mental and spiritual suffering seem to be part of the deal for creative individuals - a defining trait that must be accepted as part of the personality. I see the accompanying high level of alcoholism and drug abuse (also a type of self imposed suffering) among creative people as a symptom of various mental and spiritual afflictions that are not being addressed in a healthy way. It seems creatives find it hard to learn to cope with the hypersensitive awareness that is an undeniable piece of being a creative person. Of course initially as "hyper-feeling" people the drugs and alcohol seem like a fix because they "feel" really good and are thus used heavily. However it almost always ends badly as we have seen time again famously; see Pollock, Hemingway, Cobain and the millions of others who's names we don't know... the list goes on and on...
    It's the "volume" that needs to be turned down – for instance I could never handle (and to this day am very upset by) angry, yelling people. For a long time I was ashamed at this and considered it a form of cowardice, but I have come to realize that I can't be selective in who I empathize with. It’s just part of me, like a volume knob with one setting. When someone is angry, whether I am the reason they are mad or not I FEEL it, and it's very uncomfortable. Likewise, when I shoot a wedding and the bride and groom share a touching moment that I am privy to I can feel that also, and it helps me to make images imbued with the intensity of love they feel at the moment – at least that is my hope. In this way I can see the inherent value in this character trait and am grateful for it. I have just learned that it is okay to feel upset, or sad, or lonely – they are just feelings and not anything that needs to be “fixed.” In fact, were I not to feel deeply, I probably wouldn’t care for making photographs.
    So to answer the OP's question directly - no - I don't believe one HAS to suffer in order for creativity to be enhanced, but then I don't think we have a choice about the suffering. Ultimately, I believe the opposite: that creatives come to a fruition of their gifts and grow not through adversity, but by learning to deal with suffering by aligning their artistic pursuits with their Creator, a God who instills the "creative" in each of us in the first place. Suffering can be surmounted enroute to our creating. In that sense, we return home and to our primary mission - one that transcends our financial, occupational and personal trials, and gives us the longevity to endure and the strength to press forward.
     
  57. Matthew, I like the idea that you have offered to the effect that creative people have a "hypersensitive awareness." Regardless of what else may or may not be true, I do believe that creative people do have a much higher sensivity and awareness about a lot of things, not just their work. I do not doubt that there are associated psychological costs of being that sensitive. Not everyone becomes self-destructive, of course, but I personally do believe that those who become the most productive have found a way to channel either their passion or their torment (or both) into their work.
    --Lannie
     
  58. Aeschylus wrote, "Through suffering, comes wisdom." But all human beings suffer. Of course, some people live through wars or plagues or natural catastrophes, while the rest of us have more private worries. But suffering is there in everybody's life. Looking back over the last 3000 years, at least in the West, I can't think of an artist in literature, art, music or dance who didn't face significant challenges and setbacks, personally as well as professionally. But these challenges didn't make them artists. The challenges were part of being human.
    The associated idea that artists are more sensitive to human suffering or human experience generally than "ordinary people" are, is, in my opinion, nonsense. There are plenty of extraordinarily sensitive "ordinary" human beings who just don't take photos or write poems. And there is no shortage of artists who are insensitive bastards, at least in their relations with the actual human beings around them.
    Actually, I think it would almost be truer to say that artists as a class tend to be less sensitive to actual human suffering. What artists are acutely sensitive to, however, is the stuff that they can make art from. These two kinds of sensitivity are radically different, even though they are often confused (because "ordinary people" have no idea what it means to be sensitive to the stuff you can make art from). Photographers who cover wars and other events involving great suffering perhaps illustrate this difference better than almost any other kind of artist and occasionally they agonize about it out loud. Do you photograph the man bleeding to death in the street or do you put your camera down and help him? As a photographer, there is only one answer to this challenge: Keep shooting. Few other artists face this question quite so immediately, but many have neglected the needs of their children, their wives, their countries, in order to keep working at their art.
    Artists are artists not because they have beautiful souls but because they make art.
    Will
     
  59. Knack K,- "I've never met people who are left-brained dominated (math-geeks, physics majors, chess-players etc) that are also creative in the art department and I have rarely come across people who are great artists, but at the same time are great at math, physics and typical logical subjects."
    Marcel DuChamp, excellent chess player and artist.
     
  60. I very much like William Porter's essay above.
    I often was in contact with Viet Nam combat photographers both there and when I edited their work at AP in New York City years later.
    One photographer in particular who was sent back to the US was a leftist, distrustful of the military and the war, but he did not last long. He was shipped back to the United States and left a quivering mess of an individual who for all outward appearances (I didn't have access to his medical file) was treating with psychiatrists and gulping pills, almost certainly the best that the psychiatrists then had. He had tried to wear sandals instead of military boots, I understand and keep aloof from the soldiers. It didn't work.
    At the same time, the Eddie Adamses, the Horst Faases, the Nick Uts and the very many other talented photographers went about their business but also knew that they didn't carry guns and they owed their safety to the soldiers, whether or not they agreed with what the soldiers did.
    I dare say these extremely talented photographers were not without empathy; just look at their photos.
    But they did not lose sight of their mission -- their overweening mission -- which was to bring the horror of the war home in the photos they took. Nick Ut's naked napalmed girl literally helped change the tide of the war yet was almost not run in the United States because of her nakedness, but Horst Faas pushed for the publication and it did run. That was not an unempathic series of actions.
    Taking and disseminating such moving photos rather than acting as medics (and who says that some times they did not assist the medics?) does not necessarily make them less emphathic, by the way, for the amazing photos taken by these three men and the many others who were their colleagues who risked their lives to take them, finally had an enormous part in putting an end to a war that was started on aa premise that was esssentially 'made up'.
    The US government now admits that the Gulf of Tonkin so-called 'incident' that started that war did not happen as it was reported and essentially was doctored - e.g. 'made up'. Robert McNamara, secretary of defense who bombed Cambodia, spent his final years apologizing for his part in the war, which he later found indefensible.
    What Porter may have seen as insensitivity on the battlefield may have been a sensitivity toward a different goal -- to bring war's horrors to the attention of those who otherwise were insulated from it, with the ultimate goal to stop its ultimate horror.
    It's no wonder that since the Viet Nam war, in general the military has sought to insulate and isolate and censor what the public has seen about subsequent US engagements. War is hell and unencumbered and uninhibited public views of that can turn the tide of public opinion, and the US government has learned that lesson well. Now correspondents are 'embedded' and thus censored and not free, as I was, to roam around the battle areas.
    john
    John (Crosley)
     
  61. Luis G: I'm not saying they don't exist, I'm saying that I don't know any (I know people who are extremely one-side dominated and at the brink of being geniuses, but never both).
    I think it is very rare to come across such people. :)
    If they are, they might have the abillity to come up with formulas like e = mc^2, or paint the Mona Lisa one day and then go ahead and invent the helicopter a few hundred years before it is actually invented for real. :)
     
  62. "I think it is very rare to come across such people."
    Doesn't the transceiver have to fit the transducer or something?
    Without the right coupling, so to speak, you're going to have to wait around a while before you can piggyback everyone's consensus and thus, recognize genius once more.
     
  63. I believe any type of emotion can enhance photography, even depression or lack of emotion. That means that suffering does not necessarily enhance photography.
     
  64. Thomas K, it is easier to spot the left or right dominance easier than you might think, even though we all have traits from both sides.
    Emotions (positive or negative) have strong ties with creativity in arts because they lie in the same brain half, and if you happen to be middle brain "dominated", you can pull out all the stops from each side, but it is very rare (probably as rare as finding both-hand dominated people), that's what I mean. =)
     
  65. I knew a guy once that thought that being miserable was great. He liked to have a pebble in his shoe as he thought it was a simple way to be just a little more miserable. He did not take pictures however. He was to busy eating bananas, smoking pot and thinking about odd stuff. He was smart however. He had a Master's from Stanford and taught Philosophy. He was my teacher in college for 1 class back in the day when the world was still flat.
     
  66. Towards the latter part of this week I found out a near and dear friend has breast cancer that has advanced, and due to her age and other problems, she is too weak for chemo, so she's being sent home until it's hospice time. She's an older lady, and I knew something would happen sooner or later, but I was and am devastated. I take hundreds of pictures a week, and I remembered this thread...and I did not see any positive change in my take. YMMV.
     
  67. Luis, I am sorry to hear about your friend. I can tell that it touches you--and that you suffer as a result.
    I have just gotten a book about suffering and creativity, and it explores the issue from the perspective of those who were ill and whose creativity seems to have been affected by the experience of their own suffering, their own illness. I have only glanced through it and cannot make any claims about the issue.
    I do know personally that a creative outlet can be an escape that sometimes takes my mind off my own situation, but I hope to see if the book can tell me more--if I can ever find time to read it.
    The title is Creativity and Disease: How Illness Affects Literature, Art, and Music, by Philip Sandblom.
    --Lannie
     
  68. Thanks for the kind words, Lannie.
     
  69. Emotions (positive or negative) have strong ties with creativity in arts because they lie in the same brain half, and if you happen to be middle brain "dominated", you can pull out all the stops from each side, but it is very rare (probably as rare as finding both-hand dominated people), that's what I mean
    If one side of your brain is actually dominant, it is evidence that you are suffering from severe brain damage. It's unfortunate that the "left brain/right brain" nonsense has become so popular in pop culture because it's largely pseudoscientific horse manure that only interferes with an accurate understanding of how the brain works.
     
  70. Suffering can derive from a large number of sources, among which are those of mental, social, economic, and intellectual. Each individually, or in combination can be the motive power for inspiration and creativity in the world of art. In many of the responses to the question posed, "talent" is looked at as a trait in the creative person that they have been given or predisposed to from birth. In recent times creativity and talent have been shown to derive from "right-brain" thinking (Betty Edwards, et al) and can be a learned attribute of persons who initially thought themselves to be non-artistic and non-creative, but who were willing to exert the effort to learn and practice "right-brain" thinking. In my own case, I always considered myself an analytical thinker (prone to rationalization and logic) which typically renders one impotent creatively because of internal critique and over-thinking. I took on a role of digital photography instructor at a local community college, and that forced me to expand my thought processes to include the creative processes in order to expand my teaching skills beyond the mere instruction of "how to operate your camera." By doing so, it caused me to become much more aware of the creative options open to me in my own image-making. The struggle that always faces me is to allow the two aspects of thinking to come together in the creative process which is more of an intellectual struggle than a one of my mental stability or instability.
     
  71. Mike Dixon: So, MRI scanning the brain while doing logical tasks showing activity in the left hemisphere of the brain, and activity in the right while doing creative things are nonsense?
    The same nonsense that builds upon centuries of studies of the brain and it's functions?
    I must ask, you aren't one of those people believing that the earth is 4000 years old as well are you? Trough science, we have learned a lot of things on how the brain works, it's not something some individual sat in a room and decided last year you know. :)
     
  72. I don't know anything of a technical nature about the "left brain-right brain" issue, but it seems likely that no activity is purely analytical (or logical) whereas another is purely esthetic. Notwithstanding that one side of the brain might be more engaged or active than usual when one is involved in creative pursuits, it still seems likely that the analytical and esthetic functions cannot be so conveniently factored out as being mutually exclusive. After all, when composing a picture, does one give oneself over entirely to one type of brain function to the exclusion of the other? I personally cannot see how.
    I am myself put off a bit when I hear someone say "I'm a right-brain kind of person." Well, we know what the person means, I think, but such statements are a bit over-simplistic to the point of being more than a wee bit absurd. If the two sides of the brain are not communicating, then someone has a rather grave problem.
    My feelings when I hear that sort of over-simplification remind me a bit of how I felt in the seventies, when someone (usually a girl) would say, "Oh, so your name is Lannie. What's your sign?"
    The exit sign, dear, the exit sign, as soon as possible. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  73. I don't think suffering is a premise to producing great art. I am at university with a lot of young people who have not suffered, they may think they have but they produce art because its as part of them as breathing. I come from a family who have have never followed the arts but something inside of me wants to produce art it would be nice if other people enjoyed my art but my enjoyment comes from producing it.
    My son had a nasty form of leukaemia, I went through a messy divorce and life has not been kind, I have always been compassionate but I don't think it has enhanced my work, I produce art because it is part of my make up. It enhances my life.
     
  74. The book "Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament" by Kay Jamison,exposes the many geniuses we have had that died at there own hand, were institutionalized, or died from a social disease.
    The main purpose of the book is to show that there is a significant correlation between artistic temperament and manic-depressive illness.(Amazon review). I could not finish this book as is was so melancholic. And to find practically all poets,writers, painters of the romantic era forward had tragic lives.
    With all the psychiatric help and psycho-pharmacology available today I think the anguish and suffering could be greatly lessened.
    What effect this has on the artists output is the question: if Van Gough was on
    Prozac could he have painted "Starry Night" was it bi-polar or glaucoma? Or a divine madness?
     
  75. The book "Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament" by Kay Jamison,exposes the many geniuses we have had that died at there own hand, were institutionalized, or died from a social disease.
    The main purpose of the book is to show that there is a significant correlation between artistic temperament and manic-depressive illness.(Amazon review). I could not finish this book as is was so melancholic. And to find practically all poets,writers, painters of the romantic era forward had tragic lives.
    With all the psychiatric help and psycho-pharmacology available today I think the anguish and suffering could be greatly lessened.
    What effect this has on the artists output is the question: if Van Gough was on
    Prozac could he have painted "Starry Night" was it bi-polar or glaucoma? Or a divine madness?
     
  76. Sorry I entered my post twice.
    Jay
     
  77. So, MRI scanning the brain while doing logical tasks showing activity in the left hemisphere of the brain, and activity in the right while doing creative things are nonsense?
    Differences in activity in the different hemispheres of the brain during different kinds of tasks isn't nonsense. Extrapolating from that to oversimplified, overgeneralized pseudoscientific fluff like "the right side of the brain is the center of artistic creativity" is what's nonsensical.
    I must ask, you aren't one of those people believing that the earth is 4000 years old as well are you? Trough science, we have learned a lot of things on how the brain works, it's not something some individual sat in a room and decided last year you know.
    My area of specialization when I was a grad student was neuroendocrinological mechanisms of programming development. My knowledge of brain studies doesn't come from reading pop psychology articles. A rejection of junk science doesn't mean that I'm anti-science.
     
  78. I know I'm late answering the question, but I only just got here. :)
    For me, life experience makes the best art. That includes suffering, elation, pain, tranquillity and ennui. If the role of art is to be a form of commentary on the human condition, than the more of that condition, up to and including death (I know that, having died three times at least this year, and profoundly changes how you see the world and think) that you experience the richer and broader the palette on which to draw.
    On the subject of artists and where they fall on the bell curve of "normal" psychology, whilst I see that a great many artists may be categorized as bi-polar, ocd, scizophrenic, or suffering some other neuroses, I don't see it as an essential part of their make up. I can think of, and know, many who would be considered normal (whatever that is).
    For mine, the mark of a great artist is passion, dedication and discipline. Muses cannot be relied on to act on whim, on demand. The great artist is so practised at their craft that they are creative on demand. More of my thoughts on muses, and their personal effect on me, can be found at http://furiousennui.com/2011/10/29/musings-on-muses/ . I will not, at this juncture, that my relationship with my uses is a two way street. I know that most of them would not be my muses if they hadn't been affected by my passion, drive and discipline as an artist, and I fervently hope, and suspect, that they also see me as an influence, maybe even a muse.
     

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