18 November 2008

Slippery and elusive truth

Okay, my last post was a little self-righteous. Sorry. It must have been the preachy teacher in me rearing its big old head. (It's not like I'm living this perfectly noble life, either. Embarrassed, I almost deleted the post, but I felt that would be dishonest.) Okay, moving on now.

Tonight, I attended a really interesting talk by Daniel Kohn, the artist-in-residence at the Broad, an MIT-Harvard genomics research institute. (That they have an artist-in-residence in a science lab is pretty remarkable.) He talked of the connection between art and science, how both explain the world in their own language, and how each enriches the other through meaningful dialogue. He passionately defended his belief that our aesthetic taste isn't just some quirky part of our personality but rather a deeply ingrained belief system that traces back to our evolutionary roots and deeper human psyche. Our preference, for example, for 'grounded paintings,' in which the bottom feels 'solid,' derives from our living on a planet with gravitational pull-- something most of us don't think of often (but that makes perfect sense).

While he showed us a slideshow of some of his more recent work, he also shared some of his experiences with us: how he was French and American and born in India, how he was an artist-in-residence at the World Trade Center in the late 90s, how he came to appreciate his family's home in the French countryside.

This was my favorite piece: Changy Table 11, named after his family's home in France. I love how he captures light coming through windows and doors (you can see more in his portfolio).

He showed us his raw watercolors, often with just one or two colors, that he would paint as part of his process of understanding all of the scientific research undertaken at the Broad. I thought it was brave of him to share his raw sketches with a room full of strangers, and it made me see blogging in a new way. Like his watercolors, my blog is my 'sketchbook,' a way for me to hash out ideas and try to grapple with questions I think are important. Similarly, some posts will be better than others. (Thanks for bearing with me as serendipity berries coughs to life in fits and starts.)

But that's the thing. I think the key for creative types is to simply keep on keeping on-- to not be so precious that you limit yourself or such a perfectionist that you get stuck. And when I write a crappy blog, I'll just more quickly than normal write a new one to immediately push the not-so-good one down, where it may be forgotten. It's all a process. (And hopefully, we get better as we practice.)

And lastly, we talked about truth. Slippery and elusive truth. How all of our interpretations never quite do it justice. Virginia Woolf, one of my favorite writers, says that words always fall short of the mark, and it seems true for everything: music, art, literature... We have these pristine images/sounds/ideas in our heads, but when translated to the canvas/sheet/page, they somehow lose some of their luster in the process.

But we'll keep on trying. And if John Keats is right in saying 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,' then we can at least seek out personal truth in the form of beauty. And that's pretty nice, too.

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