Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

15 FEBRUARY, 2011

Spark: A Field Guide to How Creativity Works

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We’re fascinated by the origin of creativity and Kurt Andersen should know a thing or two about it. Co-founder of Spy magazine, host of Public Radio International’s iconic Studio 360, notoriously fired from New York magazine for sticking to his journalistic integrity, and founder of the most excellent Very Short List, he’s a paragon of cross-disciplinary creative entrepreneurship with just the right amount of cultural irreverence. His latest exploit, Spark: How Creativity Works, co-written with Studio 360 executive producer Julie Burstein, explores the nature of creativity through 10 years of Studio 360 insight into the drive, spirit and thinking of some of the most acclaimed artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers in contemporary culture.

[T]he deep threads I chose to follow as I arranged the chapters of this book can be found, as we said when we began Studio 360, ‘where art and real life collide.’ Perhaps even more aptly, they are where we experience the oscillation between art and life.” ~ Kurt Andersen

Rather than the procedural how-to approach the title somewhat misleadingly implies, the book paints a connect-the-dots portrait of the creative mindset through 38 diverse and fascinating Studio 360 guests, including Chuck Close, Isabella Allende, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Plant and Kevin Bacon. Each of the nine chapters tackles a different facet of the creative process and lifestyle, from how autobiographical memory translates into creative output to what drives people to create, through personal accounts, unexpected anecdotes and dinner-party-worthy factoids like why Robert Plant recorded in Nashville or how the sound effects of Star Wars were made.

Ultimately, Spark is less of a handbook on how to be creative than it is an encyclopedia of inspiration plucked from today’s most revered creators, leaving you not with a one-size-fits-all blueprint to creativity but with a petri dish of eclectic insights for you to distill, cross-pollinate and fertilize into a richer understanding of your own creative life.

Thanks, Julia

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15 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Day After Tomorrow: Our Aerial Future

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What Spanish ponds have to do with Canadian tissues and Georgia O’Keefe.

We love aerial photography — there’s something about a bird’s-eye view that puts this Earth, and our place in it, in perspective. Nowhere is this more poignant and gripping than when it opens our eyes to the concrete scale and magnitude of something we hold as abstract guilt in our collective conscience: The environmental impact of human activity and consumer culture. That’s precisely what photographer J. Henry Fair explores in his compelling new book, The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis — a rousing invitation to bear witness to the environmental devastation we continue to inflict on our own home, and a visceral call to arms to take responsibility and change our ways.

Fair does a remarkable job of reconciling the book’s powerful artistic vision with the near-investigative feel of the work as it turns a lens on the industries most vital to post-industrial society — oil, fertilizer, coal, factory farming — and unearths their dirty not-so-little secrets.

It is first and foremost an art book, the pictures compelling in the manner of painters like O’Keefe, Giacometti, and Caspar David Friedrich. But it’s also a book about the power that the consumer has to shape the world through the purchase decisions she makes.” ~ J. Henry Fair

Crime and Punishment, Gulf of Mexico, 2010 | Oil from BP Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf of Mexico | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Herbicide, Luling, LA, 2010 | Herbicide manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Crucible, Convent, LA, 2005 | Heavy metal waste, resulting from fertilizer production | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Lightning Rods, Fort McMurrary, Alberta, Canada, 2009 | The inside of a holding tank at an oil sands upgrader facility | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Dendrite, Rio Tinto, Spain, 2008 | Run-off pond at Rio Tinto mine | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Gangrene, Luling, LA, 2010 | Herbicide manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Facial Tissues, Terrace Bay, Ontario, Canada, 2005 | Paper pulp waste, resulting from facial tissue manufacture | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Bottom Ash, New Roads, LA, 2010 | Bottom ash disposal pond at coal-fired power plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Phospho-Gypsum, Geismar, LA, 2005 | Phospho-gypsum waste at a fertilizer manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Images via Flavorpill

As an artist with a message, one asks oneself: how do I translate my message to my medium such that it will effect the change I want? At first, I photographed ‘ugly’ things; which is, in essence, throwing the issue in people’s faces. Over time, I began to photograph all these things with an eye to making them both beautiful and frightening simultaneously, a seemingly irreconcilable mission, but actually quite achievable given the subject matter.” ~ J. Henry Fair

Provocative and breathtaking, The Day After Tomorrow is out today and won’t disappoint.

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14 FEBRUARY, 2011

PICKED: Macro Kingdom

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We’re longtime fans of Austrian filmmaker and multimedia artist Clemens Wirth, better-known as Clemento, whose magnificent Macro Kingdom series looks at ordinary phenomena, from water bubbles to dripping honey to icicle formation, with an extraordinary lens of visceral curiosity and otherworldly whimsy.

After releasing the first film a year ago and a sequel a few months later, he is back with the third and arguably most breathtaking installment. Gathered here are all three parts, for your jaw-dropping pleasure. Enjoy.

If this ongoing visual poem doesn’t give you pause about the remarkable world we inhabit, we don’t know what would.

And if you enjoyed this, you won’t be disappointed by Refraction: The Alphabet.

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