The Laws of Nature

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Past, Present and Future

Art as Experience
by John Dewey (1934)

To the being fully alive, the future is not ominous but a promise; it surrounds the present as a halo. It consists of possibilities that are felt as a possession of what is now and here. In life, that is truly life, everything overlaps and merges. But all too often we exist in apprehension of what the future may bring, and are divided within ourselves. Even when not overanxious, we do not enjoy the present because we subordinate it to that which is absent. Because of the frequency of this abandonment of the present to the past and future, the happy periods of an experience that is now complete because it absorbs into itself memories of the past and anticipations of the future, come to constitute an esthetic ideal. Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is.

This post is dedicated to all who face difficult transitions in their lives and art.

12 comments:

L.W.Roth, said...

I make art in the present. My past has an effect on it, put the present is the period of transition.
Transition just happens every day. It's quiet. It's subtle. You don't notice it till you pause and look at the past. Transition may have or not have anything to do with style. It may just be a state of mind.

-Don said...

Amen, Kathy. And, thanks.

-Don

Casey Klahn said...

I thought of my aunt recently widowed when I read this. Nice dedication, Kathy.

This quote also puts some meat on a theory I've been forming - just a personal idea. I see the history of art more flatly than many others do. IOW, some past old masterworks don't seem or feel dated to me at all. They belong to the present as much as anything contemporary does.

Mark Sheeky said...

Each day is a footstep on a nearly infinite journey. Phew! Without that "nearly" those steps would be too unimportant for comfort!

hwfarber said...

I've read this several times--I'm thinking about it.

PAMO said...

I just wanted to pop by and say Happy Holidays Kathy. I so appreciate you and your generous spirit.
A beautiful dedication and wise words.
See you next year!

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Thank you; this is an idea I'd like to absorb; wonderful!

Dan Kent said...

Thank you Kathy, it is a wonderful thought. There is planning, thinking, reflecting, but I truly feel that I am "in the moment" when I am making art. It is another reason artmaking is such a gift. It makes me feel that during any time in my life, no matter how troubled, there will be a refuge.

And, I hope you don't mind, but I was dying to give you my dream gallery and did not have time so here it is (in no particular order): an Alice Neel, an Ingres, a portrait by Lucian Freud, one of de Kooning's women, the boats painting by Van Gogh, Matisse's "Piano Lesson", a Diebenkorn, a Picasso ceramic, "The Plum" by Manet, "Flowers in a Crystal Vase" by Manet, Cezanne's portrait of his father, a Norman Rockwell, a Mary Beth McKenzie oil & monotype, and an Andrew Wyeth. And I won't get into the blogging painters that I have come to admire..

Robin said...

I am still trying to process the passage (I am not good with words) but what comes to mind is how I painted and created a series of work when I was the most unhappiest in my marriage and my Full Moon Series was the result of escaping into a happy safe place, my art - in the end I divorced, but these paintings were a turning point and brought me success and joy. I couldn't replicate this series even if I tried! Now I am trying to grow into new mediums and have become somewhat fearless. Transitions are healthy, and a sign of growth. Thanks you for the reminder.

meera said...

Having brought up in Hindu/vedantic philosophy, which emphasizes being in the 'now' and being mindful, the statement : "But all too often we exist in apprehension of what the future may bring, and are divided within ourselves. Even when not overanxious, we do not enjoy the present because we subordinate it to that which is absent." really reminds me its teachings. Thanks for showing how universal some of these wise statements are!

Miss Kitty said...

Dear Katharine,

It has been far to long that I have visited your site and I do so today under the disguise of an identity I have taken up while in hiding.

It is a form of transition in which I try to remain grounded after a year of challenges and little to show for it.

Photography is one thing but painting is another, sadly there was no canvas that saw any paint, but I am alright with it.

Next week I will graduate a second time from cardiovascular rehab, as I was readmitted a few weeks after finishing the course. Now there is a renewed hope that was not there previously and the process of transition can move forward once again.

The frequency of abandonment was more like an albatross in which all forward movement halted. Though no loner around my neck, he does still cast a long shadow that has begun to fade and I begin to think of of painting.

Warmest regards this holiday season,
Miss Kitty (my companion) and I, Egmont

Kathy said...

Hi LW - all true!

Hi Don - you're welcome :-)

Hi Casey - flat history is a good way of putting it. I see what you mean and agree. Great art is timeless art.

Hi Mark - you're a wordsmith! Yes, the "nearly" is a critical word in that thought.

Hi Hallie - I'd love to know your thoughts!

Hi Pam - Happy Holidays!! Enjoy

Hi Peggy - I'm absorbing it, too. I've read it over and over. Wisdom resides in these words.

Hi Dan - I like your art choices! Many of them would reside in my collection as well.

Hi Robin - like you, art is my refuge. It's the one constant in my rather turbulent life and so, it is my anchor.

Hi Meera - yes, the two philosophies are quite similar!

Hi Egmont - I think of you often, and seeing your comment gives me great pleasure and a sense of relief that you are progressing. Take good care, my dear friend, and visit us when you can!