Creativity and the Cosmos

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Creativity and the Cosmos

In my personal view of creativity, I have incorporated ideas from others, but the writing of American theoretical physicist, David Bohm, has influenced me the most. With Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Feynman counted as colleagues, Bohm contributed ideas to physics particularly to the foundations of quantum theory, and he carried those ideas into other disciplines as well, dialogue being one of them.

I read books and attended classes on Bohmian dialogue. It is through those two mediums I became aware of David Bohm’s views on creativity which were mind-blowing, and exploring his ideas was like traveling to a different hemisphere, to a completely different night sky. Even more dazzling with the brightest of stars, it held new patterns for understanding the cosmos. Lines of Ara and Apus and Phoenix, Pictor, and Pyxis, just like constellated points of light, David Bohm’s words offered insight into the vastness of creativity.

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According to Bohm (1996), there are invisible layers that are part of a creative order at the center of the universe. Those layers are called the “implicate” and “super-implicate.” We cannot see them or smell them or touch them or taste them or hear them, but they are there. They give form and shape to the visible world or the “explicate” through a continuous process of unfolding from invisible layers, to the visible world, to re-enfolding again into invisible layers. As humans, we can embody that process and dialogue with it to give form and shape to the visible world.

To remind myself of that generative process, I like to decorate with NASA photographs. NASA also known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, and in response, that telescope returned awe-inspiring images, some from the Arches Cluster light years from planet Earth.

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Images from Cassini are equally as inspiring. Cassini was a spacecraft launched by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency. Its images of Saturn along with ones from Hubble have the power to instantly connect home to a cosmic level, to the generative process at the center of the universe, and to the positive emotions of awe and inspiration that grow through making that connection.

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References

Bohm, D. (1996). On creativity[Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Photo by Johannes Hevelius (28 January 1611 – 28 January 1687)Scanned by Torsten Bronger, 4 April 2003. - http://pp3.sourceforge.net/wiki/ori.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89215

NASA. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/images/index.html

NASA. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/multimedia/index.html

 

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What Does Cheese Have To Do With Creativity?

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What Does Cheese Have To Do With Creativity?

Villard de Lans is an alpine village in Southeastern France. It has an intriguing presence with WWII history running through its Sound-of-Music landscape: forested hills, brooks, and meadows of wildflowers. The only thing missing is Julie Andrews, spinning in song.

My husband's family on his mother's side hales from Villard de Lans. At the center of that family history is a mill. Inside its stone walls, family members like to store local cheeses. One cheese I remember distinctly is Bleu du Vercors Sassenage, a blue cheese with a controversial name. Some locals think it should be named Bleu du Vercors for where the milk comes from for the cheese. Others think it should be named Bleu du Vercors Sassenage for where the cheese is actually made. It's a debate of medieval provenance.

Another cheese in the mill is San Marcellain. It's a soft, creamy cheese of cow's milk that comes in a cute terra-cotta cachepot. Because San Marcellain is my husband's favorite cheese, we own fifty-four of those little pots and counting. They're ideal for display, creatively displaying keepsake rings, earrings, and mementoes. And they remind me of a Sound-of-Music place, the family's mill nestled in the alpine village of Villard de Lans. 

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Alfre Woodard, a Malibu belt, and Creativity

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Alfre Woodard, a Malibu belt, and Creativity

I've been a collector of costume jewelry for twenty-five years. At a certain point in my collecting, I began to layer finds together in a baroque-forget-less-is-more kind of way. I blamed that new habit on Malibu. 

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During a school's-out summer trip, my husband and I found ourselves wandering through that nestled neighborhood by the Pacific. And surprisingly, we spied garage-sale signs. Garage sales In Malibu? Really? I forced my husband to stop. And to my excitement, I found a small cache of beautiful leather belts. The homeowner explained that one once belonged to the actress, Alfre Woodard, kind of a fun story I would only hear in Malibu. 

When I returned home to Houston, I wondered what to do with my new-found belts? I already owned plenty, so how do I bring new ones into my life and forget them not? During an inspired moment, I lassoed silk and velvet pillows with their straps. I loved the combination, the juxtaposition of leather against luxury. 

The Alfre-Woodard belt I repurposed differently. Because it fit really tight on my waist, using it as a conventional belt was out. I thought about belting a pillow with it? That was always an option. Hey, what about using it as a necklace? To try that idea, I placed its snakeskin-covered buckle at the nape of my neck. The beaded strands of the belt formed a necklace. And, then, with those beaded strands, I layered additional necklaces on top, turquoise beaded ones, African red-clay strands, one that had a silver-coral-turquoise medallion. 

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After that experiment, I found more opportunities to layer in a baroque-forget-less-is more kind of way. From stacking and contrasting, bold resin with coconut, kukui nuts with Navajo conchos, amber with rhinestone, layering costume jewelry became playtime. I played with line, shape, form. Playing with elements and principles, it was everyday creativity inspired by Malibu.

Photo by Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.californiacoastline.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22417977

 

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Creativity Date Inspired by Lascaux

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Creativity Date Inspired by Lascaux

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In June 2017, I visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lascaux. It is an archaeological site featuring prehistoric art discovered in 1940. The caves contain thousands of images. Some abstract. Some human in form. Others depict local fauna or animals.

Even though I toured replicas of the original caves, it still felt like I traveled to early human history. A power outage in the caves added to the prehistoric ambience. Through dim light, outlines of bulls and bison and cattle and stag and birds slowly came into view. Through those powerful forms, I felt connected to a time when humans lived in belonging and participated in the aliveness of Life with their feelings, emotions, and spirits on full display.

After leaving the prehistoric cave, the guide led our group to the gift shop. There, I bought some natural pigments. The colors in the box reminded me of my Paleolithic experience in the cave and the aliveness I found at Lascaux. I then traveled home and placed those natural pigments on a shelf until I had an opportunity to explore the properties of those pigments.

To begin, I walked to my local art-supply store called Goedman Art Supplies and threw myself on the mercy of an art student working there. She looked at the natural pigments from Lascaux and knew exactly what to do with them. Evidently, those pigments are used in a technique called egg tempera.

That technique has ancient and medieval roots. From ancient Egypt, to the Byzantine Empire, to medieval and renaissance Europe, it was a wide-spread technique for millennia. Painting with oil eventually supplanted its use, but the 20th century saw a revival of egg tempera. To this day, it is still used by artists in traditional and contemporary ways.

In that art-supply store, I remembered an experience with one of those artists, Dimitris Kolioussis. Using egg tempera, he paints Russian and Byzantine icons on antique doors. He also engages in conservation work in cathedrals throughout Europe, restoring religious art using that historical technique. Connecting to that prior experience helped me to understand the context of what I was exploring.

Between remembering that experience and visiting Goedman Art Supplies, I started to feel more prepared for my creativity date with egg tempera. I bought a palette, a high-quality white pigment, a small board, and brushes. The art student then showed me how to use the supplies.

 In the palette, she said to place an egg yolk. That would serve as a binder medium for my project. To that medium, she told me to add an equal part of powdered pigment and a few drops of distilled water. Mixing those elements together and using brushes, the next step would be to apply the mixture to a board in transparent layers.

I brought that advice, the palette, the pigment, board, and brushes home and embarked on a creativity date with egg tempera. In my mind, I felt like I wanted to create something abstract, so I started with a dark pigment first. I mixed it with egg yolk and water and brushed it on the wooden surface. I then brushed lighter pigments to soften the darker pigment. The darker pigment started to take the shape of a leaf, so I worked with that idea. Then, it started to adopt a bird-like nature. I added strokes to explore the energy of plumage.

After exploring that energy, inspiration took me back to the advice of the art student, apply the paint in layers, so I mixed high-quality white pigment with a soft gold one and applied that mixture to the whole board. That step transformed the feeling of the painting. The painting started to feel like it was faded and forgotten like an old wall in Italy, and I liked that. Before the painting became too muddy, I stopped that experiment with egg tempera, at least until the next morning when I tried a new surface. Instead of painting on a wooden board, I painted on thick, handmade paper with completely different results.

Supplies

Supplies

Egg tempera on wood

Egg tempera on wood

Egg tempera on paper

Egg tempera on paper

Exploring and using naturals pigments was a multidimensional exercise for me. It connected me to memories of Lascaux, the aliveness of the Paleolithic experience there, and to my memory of Dimitris Kolioussis’ workshop. I remember walking into its Cycladic nature with lime-washed plaster walls and seeing gold leaf of Byzantine and Russian icons shimmering in natural light. What an organic experience, that workshop was.

Dimitris Kolioussis’ workshop

Dimitris Kolioussis’ workshop

Besides connecting me to prior experiences, exploring and using natural pigments also connected me to the creative process. I felt completely immersed in the present moment when playing with the technique of egg tempera: exploring its nature, playing with proportions of pigment, medium, and water, and following forms organically as they appeared on wooden or paper surfaces. Besides those two, I hope to explore other surfaces as I continue my explorations with egg tempera.

Lascaux photo by By Prof Saxx

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Create a Print Room

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Create a Print Room

 

In the 19th century, it was popular to collect souvenir prints during Grand-Tour travels. From architecture to botany to mythology, those collections often became decoration in a print room. And creating such a room was a social occasion: cream tea, repartee, and ladies cutting paper frames and swags and curating and adhering elaborate print-laced arrangements to plaster walls. The cornice-to-chair-rail decorative effect was visually stunning.

I enjoy carrying that traditional forward when I travel. From street stalls, to flea markets, to antique shops, lots of prints are available as souvenirs. I prefer hand-colored ones. Once I'm home with new finds, I like the creative challenge of adding them to our print room. Where do they fit with our existing collection? Should I conventionally frame new additions? Or use paper embellishments and swags or decorative nail heads as a frame? Creative possibilities in a print room are boundless. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creativity on a Wire

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Creativity on a Wire

When a new stamp is issued in France, it's a pride-filled production. There are first day ceremonies and covers, and the French government offers postmarked-postal cards featuring the new stamp.

And my Frenchman's father liked to collect those postal cards. From ones reflecting Roman mythology and French national symbols to others paying homage to snowy egrets or the Concorde's first flight, it's a glorious collection of cards we inherited.

To honor my frenchman's father, I like to display those cards using stainless-steel clips. I attach the clips to the cards, and, then, hang the clipped cards on a stainless-steel wire, making for a gratitude-meets-sleek-meets-history kind of thing.

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Photo by Jacques-Jean Barre

 

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A Way to Practice Gratitude

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A Way to Practice Gratitude

Pilgrims have been walking The Ways of Saint James for a thousand years. Sojourning to the tomb of Saint James in Northern Spain, some walk for religious or spiritual reasons or for a chance to reconnect with fellow pilgrims. Close to one of The Ways, a four-hundred-year-old home is situated in the petite village of Aspiran. My Frenchman’s grandmother used to call that home.

It has thick stone walls and vaulted ceilings with a staircase winding to an attic. Underneath its terra-cotta-tiled eaves is a pigeon loft, a 17th century remnant that is stunningly beautiful today. My Frenchman’s grandmother used to crochet there. With her spools and hooks, she created fanciful coverlets of raised roses and pinwheels. 

We inherited one of her designs. Instead of layering it on a bed. I like to use it as a wall tapestry in the dining room. The crispness of white crochet against bold stripes, it looks quite modern in there, and it’s a way to practice gratitude, remembering her, her life and contributions in the petite village of Aspiran. 

Map by Mr Manfred Zentgraf, Volkach, Germany

Photo by Alvesgaspar

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Creativity and Kaleidoscopes

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Creativity and Kaleidoscopes

From my readings this week, I imagined a kaleidoscope reflecting the surfaces of creativity. One page reflected the waxing and waning of creativity’s importance from ancient China, to the ancient Greece, to 1957’s Sputnik to present day. Others reflected ever-changing views and definitions of creativity, and with each page turned, I noticed different aspects of those definitions.

An early definition emphasized beauty according to Cropley (2011). Others have defined it in person-process-product-management terms. Some have studied creativity’s definition through certain lenses: domain-changing figures, everyday creativity, play, novelty, relevance, levels, psychology, person-centered expressive arts, motivation, cognition, personality, feelings, intelligence, knowledge, education, sociology, organizations, effectiveness, spirituality, morality, ethicality, science. Its myriad aspects are like a kaleidoscope. At the center of that kaleidoscope, “there is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness,” Christopher Alexander (1979) writes. “This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.”  

With that nameless quality in an ever-changing kaleidoscope, a paradox is present (Richards, 2007). Creativity is “essential to our fullest experiencing of life” but it “may be actively downplayed in a society focused on other values.” What are those other values? Do they involve “false dichotomies”? Or “gender stereotypes”?

In the TED video, Do Schools Kill Creativity, Robinson addresses the downplay of creativity by tracing it to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement in the 17th and 18th centuries that emphasized deductive reasoning, rationality, and knowledge of the classics. The resulting systems in education celebrate standardization and reward a certain kind of academic achievement. Robinson goes on to purport that these systems are working for a select few but not serving the majority as evidenced by ADHD statistics and dropout rates. For hyper-connected life in the 21st century, he recommends a new paradigm that would emphasize the importance of multiple intelligences, nurture innate gifts in students, and cultivate creative thinkers for a global economy.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO also addressed the downplay. At the 2008 Art Center Design Conference in Pasadena, California, Brown delivered a talk entitled Tales of Creativity and Play, and in that twenty minutes on stage, he made a strong case for the connection between play and creativity. As kids, we were free to play, taking risks without fear of judgement and exploring how ordinary objects can be used in fantastical ways. Being a kid was being creative. In that same talk, Brown advocated for bringing a sense of play into the workplace to foster creativity and for building environments that encourage thinking by doing, hands-on building, and role playing.

Whether it is through engaging in play, or through nurturing multiple intelligences, or exploring person-centered expressive arts, I think creativity is too important to underplay. It is essential to our fullest experience and highest potential and for dealing with today’s complexities: climate change, oppression, structural inequality, radical disruption, market destruction, volatility, market creation, competition, data inundation, speed of now, innovation, and reinvention.

Photo by By Billwhittaker at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6284470

 

Sources:

Alexander, C. (1979). The timeless way of building. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Brown, T. (2008). Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play

Cropley, A. J. (2011). Definitions of creativity. In M. A. Runco & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (2nd ed., pp. 358-368). Burlington, MA: Academic Press. DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-375038-9.00237-5.

Goslin-Jones, T. & Herron, S. A. (2016). Cutting Edge Person-Centered Expressive Arts. In C. Lago (Ed.), In C. Lago & D. Charr (Eds.), The Person-Centred counseling and psychotherapy handbook (p,199-211). New York: Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education.(NOTE: This is posted in the course shell because it is not yet available in the Saybrook library.)

Richards, R. (2007). Everyday creativity and the arts. World Futures, 63, 500-525. DOI 10.1080/02604020701572707.

Robinson, K. (2006). Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

 

 

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