The Laws of Nature

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life Is Not Repetition


The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday, and so the struggle is everlasting. Who am I today? What do I see today? How shall I use what I know, and how shall I avoid being victim of what I know? Life is not repetition. (p. 115)

I should post this quotation near by bed and read it every morning before I head to the studio. It's one of the most profound statements that I've read. Imagine how much my art would improve if I could just remind myself of this every day! There's a worthwhile goal.

Your thoughts??

12 comments:

Deborah C. Stearns said...

Very thought-provoking quotation. The idea of being a victim of one's own knowledge is interesting, and harkens back to our discussions of frameworks of interpretation (lenses). It's a balance, isn't it? We need to draw on our knowledge and our experience, but not be limited or trapped by our expectations. We need to explore an idea to its fullest (e.g., work in a series), but not fall into a rut.

In Abraham Maslow's study of self-actualized individuals, he found that they tended to have a "freshness of appreciation", the ability to see things with wonder. The ability to see something familiar as though you are seeing it for the first time strikes me as consistent with the spirit of Henri's quote.

But then I think about Twyla Tharp's book, _The Creative Habit_, in which she extolls the virtue of regularly scheduled and structured creativity. She is certainly not the only person to find that having a regular work schedule facilitates artistic development. Here repetition is a friend to creativity.

So what is the right balance? How we we use our prior knowledge and repetition without being a prisoner of our past?

Kathleen Krucoff said...

I think this is a great affirmation of where one wants to head. If we don't continually work at stretching, growing, and stepping outside of our comfort zones, I think we stagnate.

Great post, great quote! Thanks for sharing.

hwfarber said...

I'm listening--nothing to add. In most areas, life is repetitious--that should not be true in art.

Kathy said...

Hi Deborah - it IS a delicate balance, and one that I'm not particularly good at. I think that I experience self-actualized events episodically, but not as a rule. If I had amnesia that would be no problem ;-) My approach is more Tharpian. I thrive on routine and need a schedule. I think there's a difference between the "right" balance and an "ideal" balance because we can't achieve perfection. However, I have no idea about how we can use our prior knowledge and repetition without being a prisoner of our past. Maybe we're always a prisoner but just spend time redecorating our cells. Thanks for the insight!

Hi Kathleen- I'm a firm believer in working outside my comfort zone. It's a continual push. Thanks for commenting!

Hi Hallie - true!

PAMO said...

Great quote- and everyone has left such thought provoking comments. Impressive! Hallie's comment makes me think that I use art to break out of the repetition of life. Art feels like an evolution of growth- life itself moves so much slower- it can be harder for me to appreciate the growth. Wish I had met Henri much, much earlier- but then I probably wouldn't have appreciated his message then.

layers said...

hello. I have been away teaching a workshop and came home to huge deadlines and am now slowly getting back to the blogs. Very good quote, thought provoking-- I guess I am in the middle-- we always walk around with our past experiences and learning from them and we always want to start each day with new ideas to try... a balancing act.

Mary Paquet said...

Kathy - great quote. I just summarized the Wayne Thiebaud appearance at San Jose Museum of Art on my blog. All that he said resonates with the discussions here. I mentioned your blog.

Kathy said...

Hi Pam - that's an interesting insight (that you use art to break out of the repetition of life). I never thought about it that way, but it makes sense. Thanks!!

Hi Donna - welcome back! It seems that you've found a comfortable balance that works. I, too, believe that learning from our past is important.

Hi Mary - how great that you could attend Thiebaud's lecture! I'll take a look at your summary. Thanks!

Dan Kent said...

I love this quote! In some aspects of my life I need this reminder very badly. I keep finding good motivational stuff to put on the wall of my studio-to-be. Thank you.

Stan Kurth said...

You have X amount of days. You're here for a purpose. Know what it is and pursue it. It should be your driving force. The more you are in tune with it, the more likely knowledge will be your ally and add new meaning to each day. If you don't know what your purpose is, find out, because the game clock is ticking.

-Don said...

My favorite thing to do as an artist is use what I know while asking, "what if...". Henri is right, life is not repetition, and I sure don't want my work to be. That would be BORING... and, as you know from my previous comments, boredom leads me into dangerous territory where trouble abounds...

-Don

Kathy said...

Hi Dan - there are so many great quotes in the books that I've been reading that I could wallpaper my entire house in them!!

Hi Stan - true; time is NOT on our side. If only I knew how much time is left :-)

Hi Don - when I was teaching in college I found that the trouble makers utilized their imaginations more than the compliant. Those were the students that I enjoyed working with most!