December 11, 2013

People Don't Actually Like Creativity




Gerhard Richter

Thanks to some facebook friends who shared this article this morning by Jessica Olien posted last week on Slate.com

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

“We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,” says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity.

Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.

A close friend of mine works for a tech startup. She is an intensely creative and intelligent person who falls on the risk-taker side of the spectrum. Though her company initially hired her for her problem-solving skills, she is regularly unable to fix actual problems because nobody will listen to her ideas. “I even say, ‘I’ll do the work. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll do it myself,’ ” she says. “But they won’t, and so the system stays less efficient.”

In the documentary The September Issue, Anna Wintour systematically rejects the ideas of her creative director Grace Coddington, seemingly with no reason aside from asserting her power.



This is a common and often infuriating experience for a creative person. Even in supposedly creative environments, in the creative departments of advertising agencies and editorial meetings at magazines, I've watched people with the most interesting—the most “out of the box”—ideas be ignored or ridiculed in favor of those who repeat an established solution.

“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey. He is famous for his scathing critiques against the art world, particularly against art education, which he believes institutionalizes mediocrity through its systematic rejection of good ideas. Art is going through what Hickey calls a “stupid phase.”

In fact, everyone I spoke with agreed on one thing—unexceptional ideas are far more likely to be accepted than wonderful ones.

Staw was asked to contribute to a 1995 book about creativity in the corporate world. Fed up with the hypocrisy he saw, he called his chapter “Why No One Really Wants Creativity.” The piece was an indictment of the way our culture deals with new ideas and creative people:
In terms of decision style, most people fall short of the creative ideal … unless they are held accountable for their decision-making strategies, they tend to find the easy way out—either by not engaging in very careful thinking or by modeling the choices on the preferences of those who will be evaluating them.
Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ. It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.

All of this negativity isn’t easy to digest, and social rejection can be painful in some of the same ways physical pain hurts. But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this rejection. A Cornell study makes the case that social rejection is not actually bad for the creative process—and can even facilitate it. The study shows that if you have the sneaking suspicion you might not belong, the act of being rejected confirms your interpretation. The effect can liberate creative people from the need to fit in and allow them to pursue their interests.

Perhaps for some people, the pain of rejection is like the pain of training for a marathon—training the mind for endurance. Research shows you’ll need it. Truly creative ideas take a very long time to be accepted. The better the idea, the longer it might take. Even the work of Nobel Prize winners was commonly rejected by their peers for an extended period of time.

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”
To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.


Jessica Olien is a writer and illustrator living in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @jessicaolien.

November 12, 2013

Laundry Meat Rope Project

the story of the laundry meat rope project starts with me wanting to create a very large knitted piece. I was imagining it like a large blanket covering an entire gallery floor where you'd have to walk around the edges of it. I began to make yarn out of the laundry meat but it was not holding up well to the demands of knitting.


 all the wrapping and twisting around both knitting needles kept tearing the yarn. so my first thought was to alter the yarn to work better



but I loved the way it looked all by itself; the variations of thickness and color from all the separate batches of laundry meat. I wanted to use the yarn as it was without having it have a specific purpose. I ended up looking at a bunch of youtube videos on how to make rope. using a freshly made batch of laundry meat that I purposely dried in thin strips I started the project.



today's rope making station

on the kitchen table


separate batches of laundry meat piled together. strips are made from this first and then twisted together to make the rope
so far I've made almost 35 feet

details of laundry meat rope



making the rope is an enjoyable process, although at the same time very tedious. it feels very primitive for the fact that there are no tools except my own two hands. and I love the fact that I am creating a potentially useful tool, and then the irony that there's nothing useful about it at all. this is the first time I've worked on a project of this nature and although I have no idea what will become of it, it is satisfying work. it can be very meditative but I find that after a long session of thinking that I'm getting so much done, I've only made a few feet of rope. in retrospect I may conclude that this is just another extension of my fascination with the body and perhaps one can see a correlation to umbilical cords and such, but right now I'm going with a flow that I only subconsciously know anything about!

more on laundry meat here


part of finished project




November 10, 2013

Letters to a Young Poet

My trip to San Francisco didn't yield that many surprises but did give me a lot to think about. 

At City Lights I purchased the book Letters to a Young Poet written by Rainer Maria Rilke to aspiring writer Franz Xaver Kappus between 1902 and 1908. 

Here is an excerpt from 1903 in which Rilke responds to the young writer's first letter asking him for advice:

"You ask whether your verses are good...Now...let me ask you to give up all that. You are looking to the outside, and that above all you should not be doing now. Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself. Examine the reason that bids you to write; check whether it reaches its roots into the deepest region of your heart, admit to yourself whether you would die if it should be denied you to write. This above all: ask yourself in your night's quietest hour: must I write? Dig down into yourself for a deep answer. And if it should be affirmative, if it is given to you to respond to this serious question with a loud and simple 'I must,' then construct your life according to this necessity; your life right into its most inconsequential and slightest hour must become a sign and witness of this urge. Then approach nature. Then try, like the first human being to say what you see and experience and love and lose..." 



October 3, 2013

Art House Gallery Archives: REMIXED 2012

Third installment of The Art House Archives:



REMIXED: A site-specific collaborative entanglement of used electronics
by Jon Slackman & Samantha Palmeri
May 6 - June 2, 2012

Sparked by a random comment on facebook about what to do with unwanted electrical equipment, we put out a call for the local community to dump their rejected gear at the gallery. A few weeks later box loads arrived filled with television sets, printers, answering machines, extension cords, cameras, light fixtures, and other outdated contraptions. Armed with drop cloths, gallons of unused latex paint, and some good loud music to listen to, we were ready to get to work. We arranged and hung the objects first. Some of the wires were spray painted but we poured the gallons of paint directly onto most of the pieces. I painted shadow replicas of the wires directly onto the walls adding another dimension to the piece. 



Whatever plugs still worked were plugged in including the television which maintained a fuzzy non-picture throughout the show, Christmas lights, some blinking, and spot lights that were connected to the center piece. 

There's nothing like frolicking in gallons of wet paint! We had a blast. The hardest part of the whole thing was definitely the clean up. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this project.























October 1, 2013

Meanderings of a Painter without a paintbrush...

Small sculptures and reliefs no bigger than 8X10"
Mixed mediums include paper, styrofoam, paint, hot glue, plastic, tape & glitter


September 26, 2013

An Affair with a Lounge Chair

Affair with Lounge Chair, steel and canvas, 21.5 X 72"

Lately I've been learning the art of Relaxation.

I finally got around to organizing my nearly abandoned backyard, and for the first time in two years whipped out the pair of lounge chairs that have been sitting in the shed unused. They're the kind I had when I was a kid with the steel frame that makes a snapping sound every time you lift the back or the feet. I've left them happily out on the patio awaiting my every return.


It's been sheer bliss! I'm out there every chance I get. I take off my shoes and close my eyes and it's like I'm on my own little island. You can plop that lounge in the sand, the grass, the pavement or the dirt and it still feels the same.

There really is an art to being able to relax without the guilt.
It's only enjoyable if you do it right, and I'm learning that you're only doing it right if you can get past the feelings that you should be doing something else. It's amazing how far we've gotten away from such a simple pleasure. They should really be teaching classes on this stuff, How to Relax without the Guilt.

Not to mention I think my lounge chair is making me smarter! While I'm content to do nothing but lap up the sun and the breeze like a fat cat out there, I've noticed that I've been able to get a lot of good thinking done. It's giving me time to see things clearly, get my thoughts together, work on ideas for new projects, write shit up like this, etc. So far I've written 3 potential new blogs, made about 100 yards of rope for my new Laundry Meat Rope project (which I'll talk more about later), and come up with ideas for dinner parties, Halloween costumes and our trip to California...

I heard an interesting discussion one time, probably on NPR radio but I can't remember. It was about research studies done on the practice and resting habits of successful professional musicians compared to those who were not as successful. The resulting studies concluded that those musicians who rested more in between practicing and took naps during the day were more successful than those who actually practiced for longer stretches at once but did not rest as much.

Well, you know I love studies like that! There's a lot to be said for giving your creative mind enough time to work properly.

This morning I woke up and noticed that the house has become an absolute disaster since I've been doing all this relaxing. My studio is also looking a little worse for wear. So off I go. It's unavoidable, I will have to go a day without the lounge. Anyway, I think it's starting to rain...








September 18, 2013

RITUALS


I love September morning rituals. It always feels like the beginning of the year. New schools, new jobs, new season, new skies, new air. Every September I write my long to-do list of new goals for my artwork, my family, my house. I make new schedules and mark up the calendar with underlining asterisks, circles and exclamation points.

It's nice to go about your day with a steady flow of self-prescribed activity. It's comforting to have some daily practices to rely on, to wake up and know exactly what you want to do without even having to think about it.

Rituals are systems of ceremonial behavior. Although defined as religious rites, rituals can also be things you do repeatedly on a regular basis. Not to be confused with habits, rituals are voluntary and non-addictive, at least the type I'm imagining. 

I read a memorable article years ago in one of those home and garden magazines. It was about this artist couple who lived on this incredibly gorgeous ranch in South Africa or some exotic location. They each had their own enormous custom built barn-like structures where they painted every day for exactly 6 hours, rode their beloved horse exactly 5 miles each morning, and heated up the claw foot bathtub every night before dinner. Although I know that everything you read in those magazines is meant to look better, sound better, and be better than anything in your real life, there's something so intriguing...about that couple and their daily rituals.

My rituals would be waking up to hot cups of tea on chilly mornings. Spending X amount of time writing or reading in the morning light, working in the studio for X amount of hours, an afternoon walk, an early dinner, et cetera, et cetera.

For some reason I cannot accomplish this. I get sidetracked midway through the morning light. I remember I forgot to pay the bills or we ran out of milk. Sometimes my studio is such a mess I don't even want to go in there. Sometimes I just have nothing to read, or write. I used to drink coffee, then I realized my coffee was drinking me. Now I'm on tea, but it gets boring. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, all this newness seems really old. As sure as I know that the seasons will change, I know that at about the same time every year I'll start wondering how in the world I ever thought I would accomplish all the things on that list.

This year I've attempted to force the issue by signing up for a 5 week clay class in Philadelphia, my first art class since 1996! I also signed up the whole family for a month of Yoga classes. I know one month isn't much but maybe I'm slowly learning to enjoy each season as it comes.....so far so good, but then again, ask me at Thanksgiving!









September 13, 2013

paper collages

some paper collages I've been making this week using 
cut up watercolor paintings on handmade paper.
the paper was made with walnut ink making it brown and measures about 5X7". the smaller pieces are folded in half like a notecard. 







September 12, 2013

Art House Gallery Archives: Some Urban in my Suburban Please


Second Installment of Art House Gallery Archives. 

Here is a show I curated in February 2012 titled

Some Urban in my
Suburban
Please

This was our first major show at the gallery and the most fun I had the whole time I was there. Four New York based artists were selected including painters Carmen Einfinger and Meghann Snow, graffiti artist Cram Concepts, and me. The concept was simply to bring some urban into a very suburban area, and I went about it by asking each artist to create their piece on site at the gallery over the course of a long winter weekend. There's nothing like creating artwork alongside other artists creating artwork!

Carmen was the first to arrive. We spent an excellent day together talking and working. There were measurements taken, trips to the hardware store, people coming in and out of the gallery, and me making sure everyone was fed and happy. She worked on her piece while I worked on mine. It was a long day that ended at my house with glasses of wine and good feelings all around.

me concentrating on spray foam

Carmen concentrating on measurements

Carmen Einfinger


Carmen Einfinger


Cram Concepts
Cram Concepts met us bright and early the next day to work on his graffiti mural which would eventually cover three large gallery walls in the next room. Everything was going smoothly. Carmen only had a few hours left of work, Cram was just getting going and I was midway through my piece. What we didn't anticipate was the smell from the spray paint! My attempts to stave off the stench with fans and plastic tarps was to no avail, and the 19th century nailed and painted shut windows weren't helping. We ended up working in our winter coats, 30 degree gusts coming from every open door and crevice we could manage. Cram took an extremely long cigarette break while Carmen finished her piece, and I spent the rest of the evening holed up in the upstairs office.


the beginning of a masterpiece!

Cram Concepts

the ventilator that could've come in handy for the rest of us
my daughter with the fumes
Carmen working in her winter coat

Carmen's finished piece "Fill in the Blanks"

Carmen Einfinger

Cram's finished mural "Purple People Dominator"


work in progress "Eat Me"
Finishing touches for the show were made all the following week including procuring a vintage gumball dispenser to go next to our gum wall, making sure all invitations and press went out on time, preparing for the opening, and, oh yes, finishing my artwork for the show. 


my "Grillz" (Golden Nuggets) in the making
 
Gum Balls

Meghann Snow

Meghann Snow was the last artist to participate as her performance piece would take place at the opening reception. Everyone who's put a show together knows that there are a ton of last minute things to do no matter how prepared you are. To put a snag in the process, Meghann called from the bus stop saying she missed the bus and needed to be picked up a half hour away from the gallery. Once she arrived she discovered a malfunction in the painting suit she had just had made specifically for her piece. When it came time for the performance Meghann walked out in an improvised bubble wrap and masking tape get-up that was both funny and clever! Her hip-hop body painting of a purple and yellow abstract city scape was a hit.
Meghann Snow during her performance
 



Overall Some Urban in my Suburban Please was a big success. We had a ton of people at the opening, a good write-up in the press, visitors who continued to interact with the artwork throughout the show, and an amazing artistic and personal experience for me. I'm thrilled that I got to do this work. Carmen especially taught me a valuable lesson about learning to go with the flow in my artwork and not be so stuck in my own head. Thanks Carmen! And thanks to everyone who participated in this event.


Installation view of Carmen's "Fill in the Blanks" and the brick wall



A visitor making his mark



Meghann's finished piece, Dance Painting #4 with her masking tape booties hanging on the wall

partial view of "Grillz" and Cram's "Ice Cream Clouds" with hall & stairway in background


Some Urban in my Suburban please 
A multi-media site-specific group exhibition with NY artists: 
Cram Concepts, Carmen Einfinger, Samantha Palmeri & Meghann Snow

Press Release
Manahawkin's newest arts space, The Art House Gallery, is pleased to present "Some Urban in my Suburban please", a site-specific group exhibition featuring four artists working in a variety of mixed media. The exhibit fills two main gallery spaces and includes graffiti art, sculpture, interactive painting, and performance art. With most of the work having been created on site at the gallery, collectively the space radiates with raw creative energy similar to the gritty push of a city street.
New York artist Carmen Einfinger, known for her paintings and public works of lively organic patterns, brings her particular harmony of color and playfulness to an interactive installation. Reversing the roles of the traditional artist with the street artist, she's painted her piece directly on the gallery wall, while the visitors of the gallery are left to "graffiti" the unfinished canvas that partially covers it.
New York multi media artist Meghann Snow, who uses dance to create visual art, will be performing a painting piece at the opening reception in which she'll use her body like a paintbrush. Dipping into gallons  of latex paint, neatness will definitely not be a factor here.
Co-owner of the gallery and curator of the show, Samantha Palmeri, contributes two pieces. A debris of colorful paint and mixed  media fills the space of what once was a window pane in the gallery, while a real brick wall is partially built between two rooms. Typical of the urban landscape, here the unfinished rubble brings vitality to the space.
New York graffiti artist Cram Concepts has masterfully spray painted two large murals on the gallery walls. 
A gum wall which visitors can add to on their way in or out completes the show, making "Some Urban in my Suburban please" an eventful and transformative artwork, alleviating most of the white box.

View more videos from Some Urban in my Suburban please here!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZLXEESF2iydiJ1_Gnn86pw