I’ve ask myself this question many times. Is creativity in my genes? To be specific I mean is the ability to create art in any type of media. Cause when I look at my parents, grandparents and sisters I am hard pressed to think so. Or better, why me? Don’t get me wrong I live to make imagery, to execute concepts, to come up with stories and characters that have never existed before. But, I wonder if it would be an easier life to love selling whether it’s insurance, cars or some kind of widget. It’s certainly a way to make more money on average if money is all that important to you. I must admit it is somewhat important to me but it isn’t the end all by any means. But I diverge.
I spent some time looking on the internet to see if I could get my question answered and I came to an article by Andrea Kuszewski. Here are a few excerpts that were enlightening.
The Essential Psychopathology Of Creativity
By Andrea Kuszewski | September 20th 2010
Andrea is a Behavior Therapist and Consultant for children on the autism spectrum, residing in the state of FL; her background is in cognitive
If we could identify a gene for creativity, let’s call it the “creativity gene”, you would be hard pressed to find very many people who would consider it a “negative gene” or a hazard to possess or carry. But what if, purely hypothetically, we could identify a gene for Schizophrenia? Or Bipolar Disorder? Or Depressive Disorder? Or ADHD? Would you select for those traits if you could genetically engineer your offspring at will? If you wanted to give birth to a creative child, the answer should be yes.
The very traits that make someone creative, passionate, and likely to achieve a high degree of success in their domain, are the same traits that define psychological disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and ADHD. So what is the difference between creativity and psychopathology? Where do we draw the line between functional excess of extreme traits and the point at which they define a psychological disorder? Is there a discriminating characteristic that separates these two groups? Yes, there is, and it’s called cognitive control, or high executive function.
Ok so slow down…I call this controlled chaos. I’ve always thought of my own thinking and work as that. Jut saying…
An article in the NY Times titled, “Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs”, described individuals that were unnaturally creative, passionate, energetic, charismatic, and those most sought-after by venture capitalists as “hypomanic”. They go on to describe how these individuals, while successful and gifted at what they do, meet the criteria in the DSM as suffering from Hypomanic Episodes (one of the defining features of Bipolar Disorder). From the DSM:
DSM IV Criteria for Hypomanic Episode:
A) Distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting throughout at least 4 days that is clearly different from the usual nondepressed mood.
B) During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:
Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
Decreased need for sleep (e.g. feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
Increase in goal-directed activity (at work, at school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g. engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments) Sound familiar?
C) The episode is associated with an unequivocal change in functioning that is uncharacteristic of the person when not symptomatic.
D) The disturbance in mood and the change in functioning are observable by others.
E) The mood disturbance not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning, or to necessitate hospitalization, and there are no psychotic features.
F) The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism)
Now, I don’t know how many of you creative-types out there began to panic when you started reading this list of defining criteria, but I know I did. In fact, of all the creative people I know in various fields of work and study (and I know a lot), I don’t know too many who don’t meet these criteria. It’s called being In The Zone, or Flow, as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is usually that happy-productive-place that we all love to be in, and don’t seem to get enough of. However, according to the DSM criteria, it appears if you are too intensely creative, you might very well be suffering from Hypomanic Episodes.
The Essential Truth of Creativity
The truth is, in order to be truly exceptional at something creative in nature, whatever domain it may be, you need to have those extreme traits that get you labeled by the DSM as meeting the criteria for some kind of a personality disorder. However (and this is the catch), in order to have those extreme, intense traits and not suffer from a disorder, you also need to have some sort of regulatory mechanism that helps to control those traits.
The psychologist interviewed for the Times article, John Gartner, and author of the book The Hypomanic Edge, essentially describes this type of excessively-creative-yet somehow-able-to-function-normally individual. He says that the “attributes that make a good entrepreneur are common in certain manias, but are harnessed in ways that are hugely productive.” That harnessing, or cognitive control, is the one thing that really separates extreme, yet functional traits from dysfunction and psychopathology.
I’m going to stop here and let those of you who want to read more click on the link. Look, no one ever said being creative was an easy way to live life. But a creative life well lived and explored is an adventure that can be satisfying and exciting. And if you manage to become successful at it highly rewarding monetarily. The bottom line is you are who you are so don’t fight it, enjoy the ride!
As part of my mission to bring artwork and art related subject matter to you the reader, I look for interesting issues about the art world. Some of the time I am stunned by what I read and this case I found about sexual harassment in the workplace fits that bill. Seriously folks, this is 2013, and this is clearly a piece of fine art and not some taudry, exploitive piece of porn created to excite the “senses”.
But judge as you will I am only the messenger.
The Issue: Sexual Harassment and Artistic Expression
In 1964, Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and gender. Since its passage, courts have interpreted gender discrimination to encompass sexual harassment in the workplace. Two types of sexual harassment may constitute violations of Title VII: harassment that involves the conditioning of concrete employment benefits on sexual favors, and harassment that, while not affecting economic benefits, creates a hostile or offensive working environment. To maintain an action based on a hostile work environment, a plaintiff must show that he or she is the victim of actions, behaviors, or statements that were so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would find the environment abusive. Many states and localities have adopted similar prohibitions of sexual harassment.
Given that sexual harassment can often involve expression, there is an inherent conflict between laws prohibiting sexual harassment and the First Amendment right of free speech. In addressing this issue, courts have held that the goal of abolishing sexual discrimination in the workplace is important enough to justify some restrictions on work place speech. Even with this compelling goal, however, restrictions on workplace speech must be narrowly tailored to prevent arbitrary enforcement by government officials according to their own personal tastes (see also Zoning Laws and Artistic Expression). These restrictions are relevant to artistic expression in that they can affect the kind of art displayed in the workplace.
The Case: Henderson v. City of Murfreesboro (TN)
In 1996, Laurie Crowder, an assistant superintendent for city schools in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was walking through City Hall on her way to a professional meeting. On display in the City Hall rotunda was an exhibit of dozens of paintings by local artists. One piece in particular caught Ms. Crowder’s eye: a 12-by-16 inch oil painting by artist Maxine Henderson. Entitled “Gwen,” the impressionist painting depicts a seated nude female, legs crossed at the knees, with her left arm draped across her chest.
Ms. Crowder was highly offended by the piece and the next day submitted a sexual harassment complaint to the city legal department. She asserted that the painting was “pornographic” and “very offensive and degrading to [her] as a woman.” Crowder wanted the painting removed. Though the city attorney did not believe the painting constituted a federal violation under Title VII , he did feel it violated the city’s internal sexual harassment policy and removed the painting himself. Maxine Henderson brought suit in U.S. District Court claiming the removal of her painting was a violation of the First Amendment. The court agreed, but without deciding the substantive issue of whether or not the display of “Gwen” constituted sexual harassment. Instead, the court held the removal was unconstitutional because it was done pursuant to a policy that was not narrowly-tailored to prevent sexual harassment, i.e., the Murfreesboro policy lacked written and specific guidelines as to what could be displayed on city property. Without such guidelines in place, city officials would be able to arbitrarily decide which artwork could be displayed in government spaces according to their own personal tastes.
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This incredible piece of art is one of many building pieces you can find in downtown LA. The area they live in is lit up by the energy and colors in these works and I for one love it. Graffiti artists are and can be very talented and their messaging poignant and relevant. Is it any different that painting a fresco or the Sistine Chapel? I’m sure Michelangelo would dig what’s going on now. The freedom to express yourself without the confines of the Pope giving his approval. Gimme a break! But wait…the one caveat I have about graffiti is when it’s tagging over other artist’s work. Like the 1984 Olympic artwork in Los Angeles that got destroyed because some individuals thought their initials were more important than the art it defaced. Or the various pieces of architecture that are obliterated by some non-thinking person who feels he must “express his ego” by covering beauty. How do you all feel about this issue? It exists in every city in our nation if not the world. Should we just stand by and let the taggers go about their business or should we do something more about it? Let me know
Sometimes when you float about the internet you arrive at a place where wonder happens. Such is my journey to John Kenn’s post-art. I believe John is a talent who will be recognized for his greatest soon. The work only need application and exposure. it’s pure simple and pristine. So here’s an interview with John Kenn.
Can you give me a brief background about you and your work? Particularly which television shows you write and direct?
I have a Bachelors degree in Character Animation from the Animation Workshop in Denmark. I graduated in 2007 and have been working at Copenhagen Bombay for about 3 years. Right now, I am working on two different TV-shows: I am directing Carsten & Gitte’s Funky-Tonky Treehouse 2nd season (we are filming this and next week) which is a puppet show. The other one I am both writing and directing is a sitcom for kids with three monkeys who run their own restaurant. It is called Restaurangotang. (It only has a Danish title at the moment). Other than monkeys, it has a ninja, an elf and a grumpy man with newspaper.
Why did you start this project?
So I wouldn’t die. (I know it is a silly answer, but I just HAVE to draw and I HAVE to tell stories and I have to do it fast, and by doing it this way on post-it notes I can get it all out fast, so that I won’t stress myself (or bore myself) to death.)
Are you a professionally trained artist?
I am a professionally trained character animator. Drawing is just something I have been doing all my life from the very start. I am not a professionally trained writer or storyteller, but I guess that is also something I have been doing for as long as I remember.
What has the response been like to your post-it note art?
It has been very good. I didn’t expect there to be any response, but a lot of people seem to be enjoying them.
How do you come up with your stories?
I have no idea… sorry. And I try not to think about it that much, but I use whatever pops into my head and then just throw away what doesn’t work.
What are they based on (and/or what are you inspired by)?
Some on childhood nightmares but mostly I am very inspired by literature and folklore. Stephen King is without a doubt the biggest inspiration, both his work-methods and his stories. The other big one is, of course, H.P. Lovecraft.
We noticed a Tim Burtonesque feeling to your art. Are you inspired by him?
A tiny bit, especially his early works: Frankenweenie, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. I think I am inspired by the same things as he was inspired by as a young artist, and from what I know we both suffered the same kind of childhood in the suburbs.
What do you hope others will get out of your art?
It warms my heart when I am able to scare people or just give them the sense of having experienced a small adventure from something so simple as a drawing on a post-it note.
Thanks for the interview, John. Love your ghoulishly great pieces.
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