Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Ways of Knowing
Art Without Compromise, by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 2, section 3: "Ways of Knowing"
In this section, Richmond draws from her personal life and experience to describe how she developed better skills in problem solving, or "knowing." Although she doesn't use the term, her description for problem solving is actually the "scientific method," which begins with observation, then hypothesis, testing, analysis, and results. There's a logical progression to it that's not confusing. Additionally, Richmond cites one of her colleagues at Harvard, Professor Schwartz, who advised that when working through issues, it's important to make "outrageously simplifying assumptions." By so doing, one can reduce a complex problem into simple parts that, hopefully, will result in an elegant solution. Despite her focus on this particular approach, the author acknowledges that there are many different ways of knowing.
I can relate to this. Although my life-long focus has been creating art, I decided to take on a second discipline in my late thirties, after I had moved aboard a sailboat and embarked on a long voyage that sparked a desire to understand our physical planet from the scientific perspective. So, I enrolled in college again, this time to study the geosciences, and eventually landed a faculty position at a college from which I am now retired. During those years, the "scientific method" was my "way of knowing" and I've applied it to my art.
This training gave me the ability to identify and utilize simplifying assumptions in order to get somewhere without being bogged-down by minutia or competing priorities. And, to me, this is the most important idea that Richmond conveys in this section of her book. I think we should discuss it. What simplifying assumptions are important to an artist when creating a work of art?