“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist.”
― Oscar Wilde
Today is the last day of my vacation here on Lake Catherine near Hot Springs, Arkansas. I have been staying in a lake side house and have enjoyed the time away from people and the self-imposed cessation of social media and of most media in general. There has been too much going on in the world that has been disconcerting and in effect anxiety inducing.
The sun has broken through the last of the early morning clouds as it has made its way into the daytime sky. It stands above the ridge on the far side of the lake from me only a mere 300 meters distant. Birds have slowly come to life as the light has increased, squirrels performing high wire acts in the 25 meter tall trees, seeming to defy the laws of gravity in their leaps from one distant branch to another. Crows have moved into the area and are calling in their raucous way to one another, breaking the silence that has permeated the early morning calm. Geese are feeding nearby and are now deciding it’s time to move on, first calling and then all joining in before they take flight to another location. They lift off almost as one and fly less than a meter above the water.
A dog barks from across the lake from one of the cabins on the distant ridge. The water amplifying the sound and at the same time distorting the quality. A couple of boats have sped by breaking the sounds of nature, leaving wakes to break up the surface of the lake and rebound off the shoreline. The water becomes kaleidoscopic as the ripples move towards the shore and then rebound back on the incoming ripples, creating an early morning light show. The distant sound of highway traffic can be heard on the early morning air and its intrusion reminds me while it was quiet in the predawn hours on the lake it is now time for the intrusive sounds of man.
I have been reading Guy Tal’s newest book Another Day Not Wasted in a leisurely manner. I have found with some of his writing I must do it in small doses. The essays are very thought provoking and his writing fills in the gaps so to speak of my own personal observations that I am unable to verbalize effectively. And certainly I am not as well read as Guy, my interests and other talents directing me elsewhere. And I have not been reading this book in the order that the essays have been presented.
I have had the opportunity to make a few images while I have been here, some in Hot Springs and others in a nature park nearby. I have made a couple of images of Descanso on my way here. I have only seen one here in Arkansas and it was not on the highway but on the side roads here near the lake. But I discovered a wonderful dried up Elephant Ear leaf that I have collected to bring back to my home studio for discovery of images it will reveal. I have some initial glimpses of what are in store and I am very excited to delve into creating some wonderful images.
Several of the essays in the book have caused me to stop and think. Some reinforcing my own observations on art, creativeness, and the challenges all artists face. Others are a demanding a call to action, either for the creative abilities of the artist, to protect the environment, or to divorce oneself from the ever intrusive and dehumanizing effects of social media and the corporations and governments that erode the creative call of the human soul.
I leave with a passage from Guy’s book in Chapter 13, Creative Individuality In The Internet Age. He quotes from Marshall McLuhan’s book The Medium is the Message, published in 1967.
All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.
Guy then states, “I think it’s fair to say that, while the risks are similar today to what they were in 1967, media in the internet age is orders-of-magnitude more pervasive. Likewise is the risk of having media suppress (if not overtake) individual, personal, and subjective experiences.”
He closes the chapter with this thought. “Creative self-expression in art is not about what one may have in common with others. It is about what makes one unique and different from others. This is exactly the reason today’s artists must be more vigilant and defiant than ever.”
Indeed, we must be true to ourselves and not to the masses who would make us unthinking and unfeeling puppets to whatever way the wind blows.