KCAC Forum Magazine Jan/Feb 1990
AREA ARTISTS PONDER THEIR CREATIVE COMPULSIONS
by Roxane Riva
Outside my window, an aerialist squirrel occasionally slips and swings upside down in his frenetic rush among momentary balance points. There is a metaphor for the artist here.
But then, making art is making metaphor: a higher, more intense, way of seeing, balancing, knowing. The metaphors of poetry, of the word arts, are necessarily verbal; those of music, dance, and the visual arts, preverbal. They precede the word, arrive from a deeper, closer part of the psyche.
There’s agreement between creator and receiver that this paint, this stone, this metal is more than either itself or what it expresses, “a stone, a leaf, an unfound door” into that higher consciousness, which is also (but much greater than) “understanding.”
Many of us make art against the void: to help make sense of the chaos outside (or within), for that amazing “Aha!” moment when a bit of the curtain lifts and maybe we “know” something. Jane Pronko calls it “finally getting it right”; Will Nettleship, “the truth of what’s inside us.”
Artists speak here to the intensity of their compulsions, to the reasons for it, and to its direction. For all of us, it is a process, never finished. Not infrequently, it catching us, like the squirrel, upside down and swaying wildly.
“It’s about the importance of vision, the need to understand the world… You have to create something in order to fully understand it.” – Edra Diaz, artist
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever done that I’ve liked, so its the only thing I’ve ever done.” – Brent A. Powell, painter
“Sometimes I wonder. It’s like an addiction of some sort: When I’m away from it I feel somehow incomplete, not satisfied. i need the challenge. Doing, there’s a sense of frustration, but always also of conquering what you’re after.
“There’s an element, as well, of trying to understand yourself. You don’t know why you’re really doing it; but when the work is completed, it tells you something about yourself.” – Jane Pronko, painter
“I haven’t questioned the assumption in many years. My art is such an assumed necessity for existence – I could cut off both arms [easier than stop making art]. It’s certainly not a rational decision.” – Jim Sajovic, painter
“All I know is that I’m impossible when I am not working. I don’t like myself. It’s like I’m lost. i think that in my art I am confronting myself.” -Pat Duncan, photographer, painter
“Reading great writing, particularly poems, has been some of the most intense and heightened experiences I’ve ever known. I think I write poetry and fiction to try and tap into that power.” – Robert Stewart, writer
“it’s a form of self-expression, discovering those things that are unknown to me visually, making them known, building on that base for still more discoveries. I have no choice but to make art. I’m not happy unless I’m doing it.” – Jean Van Harlingen, artist
“As I grew up it became my identity, a way of fitting in. Now, it’s a way for me to express and resolve personal, political, spiritual, scientific concerns, to reconcile these different elements. In the work that I do, it somehow all comes together.” – Shea Gordon, artist
“There’s no simple answer that’s not flip. Art doesn’t have to be sweet. Beethoven’s ‘Grosse Fugue’ isn’t sweet; its awe inspiring and abrasive, but it makes us aware of being alive. For me, anyway, art somehow shows us the truth of what’s inside us.” -Will Nettleship, environmental sculptor
“The title ‘artist’ is kind of shit protector. People say ‘That guy’s an artist,’ and you have permission to move through society and explore. in my art, i try to offer something, like the teacup in the Zen ceremony, that is given, turned, taken by the receiver, and then taken back by the giver.” – Bernie Loomis, artist
“To heighten our awareness of life,… to lure and enchant and console others,… to serenade our lovers,… to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection… like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal… to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it.” – Anais Nin, journals