|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
creativity (104 posts)
Okay, so maybe that's not always the case. And even being acclaimed as a genius (by your artistic community, by your mother, whoever) doesn't usually come with mundane perks like health insurance. Enter the brilliance that is upstate New York's O+ Festival.
Now in its third year, the O+ festival is, in the words of co-founder Alexandra Marvar, "a super-fun, weekend-long party, and one small community's band-aid solution to inaccessible healthcare for artists and musicians." Musicians and artists barter their services for free dental work, physical therapy, eye exams, and other medical services they would otherwise not have access to. It's a lovely way to connect different sectors of a small town, and it's also a creative, DIY solution to the country's current health care crisis. Even non-performing participants of the festival glean healthful benefits, with workshops on yoga and nutrition. It's not exactly drunken head-banging, but okay, it sounds like a pretty fun way to spend a weekend -- and actually feel better afterwards.
Visit the O+ Festival official site to learn more, and, just possibly, to start thinking creatively about sources of healthcare in your own life...
How Much Do You Know About Health Insurance?
Dr Oz. Starts a Record-Breaking Free Clinic
Francine Prose has a thoughtful take on the subject in the New York Review of Books. She writes about the recent Marina Abramović show, The Artist is Present, at New York's Museum of Modern Art, in which the artist sat at a table and invited viewers to sit with her and look into her eyes. I know, I know: it sounds like a joke of contemporary art, a loopy concept designed to make you say, "Huh? That's art?" Prose thought so too when she saw the performance in person. But upon reflection, she writes, "Somehow it had escaped my notice that sitting across from Abramović in the museum atrium was, for some, a quasi-religious occasion. As the film carefully records, people wept, and responsive tears welled up in Abramović’s eyes." The moving aspect of the art, in this case, was not a show of technical skill, nor a representation of a beautiful sight. It was the moment of connection, the nexus of the personal feeling with the public event.
But if you've never been moved to tears by a work of visual art (I have to confess, I don't think I have),you are not alone: Prose is sympathetic to the difficulties of connecting to a painting in a museum room full of fellow tourists. Still, she reminds us that visual art, even if it seems strange, like Abramović's work, or impenetrably abstract, like the colorful paintings of Mark Rothko, is often about communicating emotion. In the end, Prose asks why so many viewers found Abramović's work so moving, and answers herself: "This is the moment in which we live. Alienated, unmoored, we seek our salvation, one by one, from the artist who brings us the comforting news: I see you. I weep when you weep. The mystery, and the miracle, is that you exist."
An Artist's Journey into Self-Discovery
Why We Love Songs That Make Us Cry
And then, just like that, summer is ending. Do you feel this way too, that every year the end of summer comes as a surprise? After months of groaning about how hot it is and longing for a crisp day of wearing sweaters and apple picking, suddenly the kids are back in school, there is a hint of chill in the air, and there is that eternal bittersweet sense of September.
Amy Jean Porter's "Return to Cat Town" drawings in The Awl capture the end-of-summer feeling exactly. Her evocative sketches and their accompanying captions cover the wildness of summer days -- her kids wander around inventing games, she reports, which makes her feel as though she's living in the novelist Haruki Murakami's invention, Cat Town, where cats roam and chat and can't even see humans. There is that wild element of magic in summer, to be sure, even when your days unfold in a climate-controlled office. Still, and always, it's a time when you'd believe that cats sit around having human conversations, that the woods are alive with surreal happenings, that anything is possible.
Check out all of Amy Jean Porter's drawings, with their dreamy imagery and wise commentary, on The Awl.
An Artist's Imagined Collections
Whimsical Japanese Animations
Her restless feeling
In 2006 Vivian Reccoppa found herself in an empty nest—with more time to focus on herself than she'd had in years. "I remember thinking, I want to do something different," she says. "I want to learn something." "Why don't you try an instrument?" suggested her friend Elena. Reccoppa's dreary year of piano lessons at age 10 had convinced her she lacked the discipline for music. But Elena, a violinist who cofounded an orchestra for amateur adult musicians, kept suggesting the idea until Reccoppa agreed to try the viola—which, she figured, was small enough to schlep on the subway.
Her rocky start
Reccoppa braced for the humiliation of being the lone adult towering over a line of 6-year-olds in the lobby of her local music school. But her insecurity dissipated the moment her teacher tucked a viola under her chin and helped her guide the bow across the strings. "Every once in a while, there was a note that sounded like...a note," Reccoppa says. The lessons became a bright spot in her schedule. "I always leave happy," she says.
Reccoppa bought a student viola on eBay for $120 and began supplementing her private lessons with free instructionals she found on YouTube. She aimed to practice three or four hours a week but didn't beat herself up when a late night at work interrupted her schedule. Eventually, she tagged along with Elena to a rehearsal of her orchestra. "It was wonderful to be a part of something so big and beautiful," Reccoppa says. She started rehearsing with the group every Sunday.
At first it was hard to imagine "how I'd ever hold my left wrist level, get my fingers in the right position, hold my bow correctly, move the bow straight, and look at the music while keeping an eye on the conductor," Reccoppa admits. But she now tackles works by Handel and Haydn. "I feel like I'm waking up a new part of my brain," says Reccoppa, who believes that her age, far from holding her back, has only increased her determination to succeed. "I'm not there because my mom is making me go," she says. "I'm there because I'm excited to learn this."
When picking up a book for the first time, do you first:
1) Read the back cover?
2) Read the first sentence?
3) Examine the author's photo?
4) Flip through and read sentences at random, as you will with ten other books standing there in the book store/library/your living room until your feet fall asleep and you've completely forgotten who or where you are?
For me, it's #4. (By the way, if you answered #4, according to my proprietary How-You-Check-Out-A-New-Book-Personality-Test (TM), you are a most serious and brilliant reader.) Of course I read for a gripping story and unforgettable characters and all the things that we wallow in novels for, but there is also a special joy in sentences, in bits and bobs, and even in the connections between seemingly unconnected books.
Which is why I love The Infinite Book, a text made up of other texts. What story is created when bits of other stories are jangled together like a pocketful of change? The result is surprisingly coherent, or anyway it can be. Bedtime stories are read, become nightmarish, blend into fact, meld into poetry. It's a lovely way to find a new book to read (clicking on each line gives you more information about the from which book it's been plucked) -- and a lovely way to think about reading. Reading as collecting, reading as an art form all its own.
Check out the Infinite Book, from Bkclb.
Must-Reads of the Month
Tame Your Overstuffed Bookshelves
Read the Book You've Always Meant to Read
What do a widow, a relief worker in Haiti, a homeless shelter director, and a grieving girlfriend have in common? In the case of singer/songwriter Alex Woodard's multimedia project "For the Sender," all four wrote letters that inspired him to write songs. In his new book he writes about how he was feeling adrift, trying to pursue his artistic dreams, feeling discouraged, and then on top of it all, mourning his dog/best friend, when a letter from a stranger changed everything. Along with a group of musician friends, Woodard set about turning this letter, and three others, into a series of songs. (Check out the official site for facsimiles of the letters and more about each letter-writer's story -- each heartbreaking in its own way.) Then he traveled to meet each letter-writer and perform their songs for them, in private concerts that were culminations of each woman's original act of reaching out.
The project is, in a way, the crystallization of the artistic process: the wordless pain Woodard felt when his dog died and he felt his life had stalled; how connecting with others helped to find both his musical voice and the stories he wanted to tell; then the final closing of the circuit, when he reconnected with his unlikely muses. It calls to mind the advice of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut: "Write to please just one person." When Alex Woodard found someone -- in this case, his letter-writers -- to create for, he found his reason to create.
I found the Haitian relief worker's story especially compelling -- learn more about her, and see some priceless footage of Haitian school kids enjoying an impromptu concert, in the video below:
Sharing the Work of Haiti's Artisans
How Creativity Can Be Applied to Anything
The list is fascinating, in the way that it's always irresistible to peek inside a romantic relationship, to hope for a glimpse of that mysterious something that is invisible to outsiders. Peeking at the letters of lovers offers a hit of vicarious romance, and sometimes even a moment of shock (Mozart, please!). So read on. You just might get inspired to write to your own darling dear little lambie.
Love Letters to the World
The President You Least Expected To Be Romantic
Write a Letter to Your Latte-Maker
Her GoodsErin Flett's patterns—which she silk-screens onto pillows, bags, and wall hangings—are often inspired by her collection of unusual bric-a-brac. (Old sushi bowls, a 19th-century coloring book, and a vintage scarf have all influenced projects.) "I grew up sifting through junk at estate sales," Flett says. "That's where I get a lot of my aesthetic."
Her MethodFlett sets a screen atop a piece of fabric and, with a squeegee, rakes ink across it to transmit an image to the cloth. Flett's 4-year-old, Aryana, is her biggest fan: "When she was little, she would clap when we got a good print," she says.
Her PhilosophyThe zippers on Flett's pillows—which are stitched locally—are sourced from family-owned manufacturers. "If someone helps you make something," she says, "their energy is in it. So I want to know them, and I want to make sure they feel good about the result, too."
Flett's designs—shown here on throw pillows and messenger bags—feature everything from cheerful pups to graphic florals and abstract, riverine ripples.
Even the, hm, less-globally-powerful among us can learn from these eminent figures, from Hilary Clinton to Beyonce. Forbes has helpfully culled some highlights:
It occurs to me that these are actually all part of the same thing, basically three ways of saying: Don't put up mental blocks in your way. It holds true in so many ways, in so many different corners of our lives. Even if we don't actually want to be the most powerful women in the world. Even if our wildest aspirations are actually to be the most powerful woman within a significantly smaller sphere of influence, even if -- maybe especially if -- the people we wish to lead and inspire are just the kids snoozing in the bedrooms down the hall.