The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Art and Nonsense: A Non-Creative Look at the Creative Process (1980)

Perspectives on Creativity and the Unconscious, D. W. Fritz, ed.. Miami University, Ohio, 1980.

Coming here to Miami University to talk about creativity and how to promote it made me think of my own childhood, which was utterly devoid of any creative influence whatsoever. Here I am, an artist addressing a group of academics in the name of a psychiatrist, but how I got here is puzzling. My father was a business executive whose view of creative types was that they were too confused to do things right so they did it their own way. He said that he didn't have any around his office at all. And he was telling the truth. And everybody in the family subscribed to the ancient notion that those that can't do, will teach. My grandfather, who was a deacon of the Presbyterian Church and the Commissioner of Finance of the State of New Jersey and somewhat to the right of Calvin Coolidge had the following to say about humanity in general and psychiatrists in particular; he said: "Normal people worry about themselves. Crazy people let others worry about them. Psychiatrists are supposed to know the difference, but they don't." So you have to say whatever made me an artist wasn't family pressure.

Creativity is a subject like mushrooms: it's not too hard to find it around but its characteristics are kept in the dark and covered with manure. It's a difficult subject. A discussion of creativity can easily drift into hair-splitting semantics or generality. It is also a poorly defined aspect of human behavior about which much may be assumed before it is stated. So we should recognize what we are talking about before we begin to talk about it.

Now, I have always found that the best way to go at a difficult and poorly-defined subject is to be direct exacting, clear, and simple. The dictionary says that to create is to originate, to bring something into being which did not exist before. By that definition the most creative thing any of us can do is to conceive and bear children. But we are not here to talk about purely physical creation. Moreover, we are not here to talk about the latest car to roll off the assembly line. We're not here to talk about the third runner-up in the Pillsbury bake-off. The reason is that there isn't very much new about the car and there is little that matters in the third-place cake. I think we all have a clear sense that the kind of creativity that we are interested in here is the kind which makes a ripple in our mainstream and adds to our life. In other words, something new which is also valuable.

Newness is contained in the idea of originality. Valuableness is the more interesting part of the creative product.

Let's take three hypothetical cave men and name them Manny, Moe, and Mack. Each invents the wheel at the same time. Manny uses the wheel to outline his flower bed. Moe uses the wheel to roll down the hill to amuse his family. And Mack uses the wheel to haul goods. Mack will be the one who is remembered as the inventive genius, because newness, as measured by the characteristics of the created object, is less important than what the object does under certain circumstances. Creation is accomplishment. And when we gather at this conference to talk about creativity, we're talking about Beethoven, rather than Barry Manilow, about Einstein, rather than the guy who put the wrinkle in the hairpin. We give lip service to the ideal of "the creative life," and how to promote it; but the value we imply derives from genius. Genius is the incarnation of creativity, and that's where we go to find it.

Unfortunately, that is also where many students of creativity get paralyzed in awe of their subject and turn in despair to phrases like "primordial truth."

Let's study Beethoven and Einstein; but let's also not forget that Manny and Moe were also creative, in their way. I'm not trying to be egalitarian, but I am pointing out that we will not get a clear picture of creativity unless we see it in its full breadth. We are all born with a genetic obligation to be creative, and we are all creative, more or less, and we are all creative much of the time. Much of this creativity gets trained out of us early on, or our creative abilities get flabby. Sometimes circumstances force us to be creative. When our security is broken, when we lose a job, or when we get a divorce, we feel that we are in the worst time of our life; but actually most of us are at our best in those situations. Yet it hurts so much that we can't see it.

Napoleon had a general who was a very creative person but also a very conservative one. He also had a bladder problem. When Napoleon wanted a solution to a battle plan or something he would say, "Okay, let's all sit down and we won't get up until we come up with a solution." This guy would squirm and wiggle, but sooner or later he'd come up with a stroke of genius. Then he'd run out of the tent. That is really "promoting creativity."

But what I call creativity, or what I call general creativity, is the act of reinterpreting reality in the light of present circumstance and doing something about it. Creativity is judgment and adaption. Creativity is essentially what all life has been up to since the beginning of time.

This view doesn't enlarge creativity out of the realm of study. It only serves to characterize creativity as a universally necessary attribute which is manifested in many different ways. Once we understand this, we make ourselves ready to point to those manifestations we value. Then we can look at the Beethovens and Einsteins and see that they exemplify special types within a constant process. I can testify that artistic creativity consists of judgment which is very much like real-life judgment. The difference lies not in the activity but in the materials or type of reality and our intentions toward the materials. The constituents of the creative act are reality and the organism. My reality is my experience. Whether or not it "exists" philosophically doesn't matter to me. What does interest me is what I can do with what I've got. I see no point in postulating something I cannot experience because what I can experience is sufficiently interesting. I am very fond of reality. I appreciate its consistency and its depth. And reality is quite deep if you think about; when we push it hard enough we come up with things like black holes which we cannot ever experience directly. And all I ask of it is that it keeps on being as complicated as it is.

My reality is here for me to learn from, not to impose my will and imagination upon. It's here all around me even if some of it is invisible, like radio waves. I call the invisible part "mystery." To experience mystery I must change myself, not the unseen reality. Mystery is an interesting notion. Most of us speculate on it unsuccessfully. We think of the unknown in terms of the known, like the folks a hundred years ago who said in the future there would be "flying carriages." They had the "flying" part right, but they visualized it in terms of a vehicle which could not possibly fly. Today we have flying saucers. "Are they real?" we ask. "What are they?" What we are really asking is: "Please explain them in terms of something we already know about." So we have the movie "Star Wars" because we can see the phenomenon of flying saucers in terms of flying objects and alien intruders. Those are part of our experience. We say they come from a culture so advanced that they can conduct interplanetary travel and investigate our civilization. It occurs to me that there might be a culture so advanced that they don't care about any of those things. We are often more interested in imaginary extrapolation of facts than interesting facts themselves. And when we don't know what we are talking about our creative imagination generally works overtime.

Now, I am the other participant in the creative process. I am the organism. I am stuck down here in the middle of reality, and I have to deal with it. The parts of reality you and I live with change, and we have to be creative to cope with these changes. I'm still talking about general creativity here. Nature is very straightforward. She says, "Adapt or die." Civilization, which is a product of creative adaption, has bought us time from death by making survival a joint venture, giving us the opportunity to misjudge reality safely, within limits, and to exercise creativity in non-vital ways. Art is one of these ways. Art-making is a form of special creativity I know about, and that is what I'm here to talk about.

In the "real world" creativity takes place according to real life circumstance and results in practical solutions which are better or worse according to certain persistent assumptions. For example, it is better to preserve life and maintain the species than to die or become extinct. Anything which satisfies these assumptions we call good. Anything which goes against them we call bad. The reality of art, the circumstances of art, are very limited, specialized, and removed from general practicality; and creativity is built in as a deliberate constant. Art-making is the process of making something better without knowing what better is. I can tell you with some certainty that one work of art is better than another, but I will not be able to tell you why because I cannot say what constitutes the goodness of good art. And I don't particularly care because for me the process, the experience, and the discussion of the experience are enough.

Examining and describing have nothing to do with artistic goodness or experiencing of it. And there is a great deal of misunderstanding here. Sigmund Freud's examination of Leonardo's Holy Family and Edmund Bergler's examination of Moby Dick are interesting and useful and do not in any way impinge on the quality of the art or the experiencing of that quality.1 Freud and Bergler were not defining good art but describing certain characteristics of art which had already been perceived as good. Quality is indifferent to examination because it would be possible to examine bad art and come to similar conclusions. Those who object to this kind of study underestimate the strength of art. A flower may grow in manure, but that makes it no less beautiful.

What I have said here may tempt us to conclude that art is a symbolic activity, that artistic creativity stands for general creativity, that art is reality up on a stage. But art is not symbolic, it is specialized. It doesn't stand for general creativity, it is a refined version of it. Dynamically, art-making is still the ancient game of re-adaption, and art is the material record of it.

The intentions of any type of special creativity can be read in the materials it employs. In art-making the materials are common, inert, malleable, unstructured, and unimportant. And they have enough functional permanence so that the structure they become can be apprehended over time. The essential quality of art materials is their neutrality. The less evolved, or peculiar, or complicated they are the more available they will be to creative activity. It's possible to be creative with complicated things like power, and people, and money. But artists deal with plain stuff. That's what art is, plain stuff. Art materials are inert, simple, and pliable. But this does not mean that they lack character. It's just as important for the artist to understand the nature of his materials as it is for any organism to understand its own reality.

Materials demonstrate their character when they enter the process of art-making. Then they tell the artist, just as the world tells the organism: do what you want with me but pay close attention to what I am, because if you don't you'll come to grief. Materials are compliant and stubborn at the same time. The largest part of creativity is discovery. Ninety-nine percent is in the materials, one percent is what you do with them. That is a painful lesson which must be learned. And you must also learn that materials do not limit, they inspire. If we can't yield to the materials at least as much as they yield to us, we declare our fear of them. It is in yielding that we show assurance: it is in yielding that we gain mastery.

This is not a mystical notion from the orient, it is hard knowledge gotten from twenty years of making art.

I can give you an example of it. I've been taking some pottery lessons lately because I've been interested in doing something with clay. My pottery teacher is a Swiss lady who is a very exacting person. Despite her great skill at pottery making, she uses very simple commercial materials. And one day she was showing us how to make a bowl. She was turning the bowl on a wheel. And the bowl kept getting larger and larger. She kept saying, "You know you can't make the bowl too big or the clay will collapse, 'cause the clay can't support a large form."

Well, the bowl kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. But the clay didn't collapse. And she got more and more and more angry. And the bowl got more and more beautiful, much better looking than the stuff she usually made. And finally I said, "Please stop. The bowl is beautiful, the walls are thin, everything's fine about it." She was very irritated and annoyed, and the next day she broke the bowl. She threw it away, because she wasn't going to let the clay tell her what to do. It's ego. Ego.

Ego always stands in the way of art. Walter Netsch was saying that ego helps art but my feeling is that it's always in the way. It's taken me a long time to learn that. I am still learning it. But I treasure the things I have heard or read or done which force that lesson on me. For instance the Japanese potter named Hamada said that the best pots have the "quality of a natural event." And my friend, the critic, Clement Greenberg, said, "If you want to change your art, change your studio." And Picasso's wisdom, or possibly my own version of it:

"When you find a good part in a picture, paint it out. It will come back in better form."

Or the times I have run out of a color and used another color and found out it was better. I am even grateful for the times when my painting goes badly, because those periods often produce the best paintings; they make me realize my imagination is limited and that my mistakes can be better than my intentions.

The combining of the artist and his materials can be called process. Process is very complicated, and it will be better here to report my experiences rather than relate conclusions drawn from them.

As a young man I was bitten by the "art bug." It is a disease and that's why I use the phrase. I found myself not caring about anything but art. This urge is very clumsy and callow in the neophyte artist. I was like a baby putting everything in my mouth at once. I wanted to see it all and do it all faster and better than anyone else. My last two years in college were occupied copying Picasso and Klee and Matisse out of books. I graduated rather far from the top of my class, but I learned a great deal about art. You can call it compulsion - or dedication. I am sure there is some dreadful psychological maladjustment at the root of it. But whatever you call it, that urge is the basic constituent of art-making. It is more important than talent or facility or anything else. And in the professional artist it becomes what I call "seriousness." Without seriousness there is no great art.

Then came the give-and-take with colleagues, endless seeing and talking, comparing and criticizing. This never ends, but as I matured it turned from a scattering flame into a slow burn. The hackneyed view of the artist as an isolated soul in a garret is nonsense. Art is a very communal business. My colleagues' art became part of my art. I used their styles and techniques and ideas shamelessly and discussed it indiscriminately. Only the actual physical process of making art is done alone - and then not always. The best sculptor working today encourages his helpers to make suggestions. If he likes the suggestions he uses them, because he's learned to put his ego second to the job at hand.

Soon I evolved a so-called "style of my own." I say "so-called" because originality is vastly overrated nowadays. It's a modern conceit of the "mad genius" variety, aided and abetted by widespread misconceptions of the accomplishments of Pollock and Picasso and others. Striving for originality results in listless art, art that screams for attention but doesn't have the backbone to sustain it. We see this in its extreme form not in painting but in certain contemporary ceramics, where, in the name of originality and "self-expression," some of the most horribly ugly objects in existence have been created. Goodness in art has looked new for so long that now many artists try hard to look new in the hopes that goodness will tag along. But it doesn't work. You have to use the style you are comfortable with, the one that allows you to paint the best pictures or make the best art. Style is the vessel of art, not the substance. Without the vessel that art vanishes. There are a great many empty vessels around.

There are no rules in art-making, except possibly a few "rules of thumb." The essence of art-making is "try it and see if it works." Most people imagine the artist as a demented, ear-less van Gogh "expressing mad visions" or a cool Michelangelo envisioning the Pieta in its entirety in the stone. Whatever the stories, however long they have persisted, they are not true. Art does not jump from the brain to the easel. Art-making is a million tiny decisions, a series of judgments, trying again and again, appraising what you have done before you take the next step. It's a very, very "human" activity.

My generation didn't know this when we were twenty-five years old so we worked out a system, as young people will do. We knew we were right and that everyone else was wrong. Our art had to be symmetrical, clean, pure, simple, and straightforward. What was there was there and that was all. That was our motto. We worked at it, and the style came to be called "minimalism." There was a show at the Museum of Modern Art which we were all in. The style settled. Everyone started doing it. It was successful; it was the latest thing.

Here is where the crisis of seriousness set in for me. (I was interested to hear Walter Netsch speak about a similar kind of crisis that he had with the Air Force Academy chapel.) Seriousness must not be confused with sobriety or heavy-handedness, or the grim culture that is ladled out in schools like overcooked fish. Seriousness is the inner necessity to do better, to not be able to leave well enough alone. This kind of seriousness can be made comic or tragic or playful or somber. My crisis came, as I think it does to many artists, when the stuff I was working with, my material, started telling me I could do better than I was doing. That's when my troubles began. I had to scrap everything and start all over again. And I was scrapping not only a working method, a method that worked, but the small audience of collectors who appreciated my work and a larger audience that was just beginning to. They felt betrayed and I had to contend with that.

I went through a long, agonizing period of change. For the first time I recognized the truth of Greenberg's maxim "to change your art change your studio." I changed almost everything, slowly, and painfully. I don't think the word "pain" is too strong. My days were filled with tormented indecision. It may not seem like a big deal what some guy in a 30-foot-square building in New Jersey does with his paint and canvas, but for me it would have been easier to have had the fate of the world in my hands. I pondered every move. I stopped using paint from the can and went to acrylics. I stopped painting upright and lay the stretched canvas horizontal. I built a platform after that and stretched the canvas on it. I stopped painting every little square inch of canvas and I let the paint run around where it wanted to. I quit enlarging little studies into full-sized paintings. I lay down my expensive three inch bristle varnish brushes and bought disposable paint rollers and made huge "brushes" by tacking diapers on the end of sticks. I let the painting choose its own size, after it was painted.

And I stopped selling pictures.

When I complained to Clement Greenberg that I had lost my audience and my sales, he said incredulously, "What did you expect? You got better!"

I learned a lot during those difficult years. I also learned, ironically, that art is play. My art was telling me to stop being so uptight and to start playing, to start messing around, to get rid of those rigid habits. It was telling me to force eccentricity into my work, not to make my work eccentric - that's the misconception of those dreadful potters I mentioned - but to bring up new things on which to exercise my judgment. It told me that art is wasteful and destructive and that I had to say "so what." That was very hard for me. I'm a meticulous person and I hate waste. I wanted to paint meticulous paintings and use everything. But when it stopped working I had to face facts. I had to get messy and wasteful. The art comes first. Anyone who cannot accept that should not be in the art-making business. I could have gone on with my temperament and my "self-expression." I would have been more "true to myself," as I was so often told. It would have been a lot easier. I would have had more sales. But then I would have had to tell myself that my art would have been better if I had taken the other way. That would have been intolerable. That's what seriousness is.

Today, when I go into my studio, I take no plans, no outlines, no strategies. All I take is my "psych," as I call it. "Psych" is something I learned about in college when I was editor of the humor magazine and every month was called upon to do numerous cartoons. I could draw fairly well but I was very bad at thinking up ideas for cartoons. But I found that one didn't think up cartoons just by thinking them up. I thought up cartoons by thinking about the fact that I had to do it all the time. And once I thought about having to do it all the time suddenly the world turned into a big cartoon and I started seeing cartoons everywhere. I was like a photographer. I saw cartoon situations all the time. I was "psyched" into making cartoons. It's like "psyching" football players in the locker room before a game. The practice is over, the plays are memorized, the line-up is set. Only the game remains. You've got to go out there and do your best. You're ready, but you don't really know what is going to happen. When I go out to my studio, I go out not knowing what I'm going to do. But I'm very ready to do it.

I told a skeptical friend once - I was explaining about contemporary art and the way it goes - most people who are not artists think that everything goes very much by plan, and regulation, and order, and I said to him, "You know I really don't know what I'm doing when I come out to my studio." So he came out there and he looked at the hanging, colored, wet diapers and pools of paint and uncapped cans and canvases hanging up like hides from the ceiling and he said, "I can certainly believe that you don't know what you're doing when you come in here. "But," he asked, "do you know what you have done when you go out?"

I got "psyched," for instance, to write this paper. I had plenty of ideas about creativity, but I knew I wasn't prepared to state them clearly. There is a big difference, as you know, between having an idea and expressing it. So I let my everyday experiences, just like the cartoons in college, run into a little witness chair in my brain and I asked each one, "What does this have to do with creativity?" Of course the best ideas come at the least convenient times. A friend calls it the "Three B Curse." He gets his best ideas in the bath, in the bus, or in the bed. And we all know that sitting down in front of the type-writer is the surest way to make ideas jump into a lead box and lock the door. So I just scribbled notes, all the time, on anything handy. After a while I took them all and typed them up in random order. Then I cut them out and laid them on a large table and organized them into the categories that they made themselves out to be. And that's how I found out what I thought about creativity. Not what I thought I thought or what I thought I should think, but what I really thought. Of course, as I expected, what I came up with was fairly surprising. And some of the ideas I like best don't fit anywhere. I still don't know what to do with them. But that's probably because I am not as good at lecture-making as I am at art-making. When you're making art, you throw out, immediately, without a second thought, good ideas that don't fit. As Picasso said, they'll come back.

Part of our conference here concerns stimulating creativity in an educational context, so I feel I should make a few comments about the subject. I'm afraid I can't be very sanguine. And I'm afraid what I'm going to say is not going to make me very popular. I don't think creativity is a learned facility. I think it is a natural one. I think primary education teaches us to be afraid of creativity. And I think by the time kids get to college they have most of their natural creativity fried right out of them. In college they are served up with official culture - that overcooked fish I referred to earlier - and they are told, in effect, as we all are when we sit down to that kind of meal, "Eat it, it's good for you. The better it is, the worse it tastes. If it's fun it's not the real thing." We are taught to respect what we don't like. We are taught not to trust our instincts. We are taught to sit miserably watching some French film loaded with sententious, intellectual nonsense and come out of the theatre saying "Wasn't it great" when we really feel as if we have been swimming with cement shoes on. Recently William S. Paley, the Godhead of CBS television, told all of us that we must devote prime time to "better things." Watch out! By better things he means some dissected specimen of official culture. Something, we can be certain, which has not evolved through the medium of television and does not belong there. Television has its own qualities, and it is a lot better than most intellectuals will admit. Paley will have us watching Shakespeare. Poor Shakespeare! Little did he know as he wrote for the rowdy crowds of the Globe theatre that one day he would become the ensign of deadly culture. Paley will put Shakespeare on in prime time, huffing with cultural righteousness. A few people will watch and understand some of the Elizabethan English and a little bit of what is going on and they will feel "improved," as if they had gone to church. Everyone else will turn the dial to "Laverne and Shirley." The ratings will be a disaster, the networks will rise up in horror and say "No more culture!" And all along the best things on the tube are making it competitively. But they don't have that badge of culture. The greatest wisdom on TV is the margarine ad that says "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" That is absolutely true. Not even the mother nature of television.

We cannot teach creativity. Teaching creativity is a contradiction in terms. If it's teachable it is no longer creative. And the enjoyment of the fruits of creativity is a matter of feeling, not of education. Teaching should inculcate acquired wisdom. That's the value of teaching, and that's a hard enough job for teaching to do. Rewarding creativity in an institutional context is impossible. Our educational establishment is a dinosaur. It is most definitely not interested in creativity. No dinosaur is. We cannot do anything about it, and it's better not to try. Even art schools, which are in the creativity business, are hopeless. Most of them are either tyrannies or anarchies, regimented ranks of bruised egos squeezing dangerous creativity out of youngsters, or undisciplined playgrounds where anything goes. Neither one promotes much creativity. The only way to promote creativity is to de-educate. Even that can only be done when creativity is already under way.

I have three good examples here. I have twenty-five years of experience, too, and I don't mean to pull rank but I will anyway.

There's an artist in Cleveland, in his early fifties. He's very talented, a very good artist, but for most of his life he's been doing figure studies. And he's gotten a certain limited reputation doing figure studies. About a year or so ago, he got tired of what he was doing. I suppose it was similar to the kind of thing I went though. He wrote me a letter because, I guess, I was the only east coast artist that he knew about. And he said, "You know I'm really getting tired of what I'm doing, do you have any suggestions?" I wrote back, "Are you really serious?" When he replied, "Yes, I'm really serious," I said, "All right, do the following: Number one: throw away all your pencils. Number two: don't do a figure study for three months. Number three: buy some oil paint, instead of watercolor. Number four: go outside. Number five: paint something you've never painted before." Well about three months later he sent me some slides and his paintings had gotten about five hundred percent better. Then he wrote me a letter in which he said, "You know I like my pictures now, but nobody else does. They're all very upset." I wrote back, "That's a sign you can trust - that everybody else is upset about them!"

We jokingly refer to it as a correspondence school but he's just getting better and better all the time. And it's not because I'm such a great teacher. It was just very clear that here was a man of immense talent and a lot of motivation who merely lacked nerve. He wrote me and I told him that he could do these things, and that gave him the nerve to do them.

On the other hand I had a student in Texas, at the University of Texas, who was a young girl about twenty-one years old at the time. She had just started painting when came there; she was very, very good. A very talented kid. She could do anything. You can only guide people. You can't teach them what to do. You can only guide them and make suggestions or give them the nerve to scrap things that are not helping them. She began painting very good, big, colorful paintings. I mean, for a twenty-one year old kid, it was marvelous. And I encouraged her, and I wrote her letters, and she said, "Well, I think I'm going to come to New York." And I said, "O.K., come to New York if you want to, but you know New York is a tough place. There are more painters in New York than there are taxi drivers. You're going to be up against an awful lot of competition, and it's going to be very rough!" She said, "Well, I can take it." And she came to New York and indeed she survived very well. She called me up one day, very excitedly, and said, "Guess what, I'm having a show." I said, "Well, that's marvelous news, Why don't you send me an announcement." So she did. My heart sank. What she'd done was come to New York, looked around at what was making it, taken bits and pieces out of everything that was making it, all of the cliches of the art world, and piled them into her pictures. And here were these paintings, for which she'd gotten a show, but which were just absolutely terrible. She'd got a show, but she shouldn't have come to New York. It's probably ruined her. Fortunately she's got a lot of time to work it out.

Actually, it's quite reasonable not to try to be too creative. Because it falls on certain members of the human society to be most creative. And we say that these individuals possess a divine gift, although that's very misleading because the gift is to the society not to the creator. The creator is the giver. His only gift is the ability to give, and I must add, the necessity to give. The rewards of the world go to those who take advantage of others' creativity. Some people make the roads and some people drive on them. That's the way the world is. I'm not complaining, just observing. (I'm complaining, too, actually.)

Creativity means change. Most people dislike change. If they are well off they're probably right. If they are not well off they usually realize they could be worse off. That is why revolution is born of desperation, and in the absence of desperation the human condition is often one of fear and endurance. The fear persists even when civilization frees us from the reason for the fear. Civilization grants the freedom to be creative, but we are often afraid to take advantage. Most of us, when we become secure, build fortresses of joyless consumption. I see people in Texas collecting art in the same way as their grandparents stored potatoes in the cold cellar for winter. The objects are different; the motives are the same. It's difficult for us to realize that civilization can free us to be creative without fear. And we cannot see that civilization forces all creativity toward the condition of art-making and all of our products toward the condition of art. Good art offers a kind of experience which has come to be called esthetic experience. And it offers it freshly over time.

I cannot transmit this experience in words, but I can testify to its existence. And that includes judgment of value. Esthetic judgment is like practical judgment in one way and unlike it in another. Practical judgment values an object in relation to its use and some part of life. And it can estimate that value from the attributes of the object. This estimate can be put into words. Esthetic value cannot be put into words because it arises from experience rather than usefulness. Esthetic apprehension includes judgment as it searches for greater esthetic pleasure. The pleasure and the value it has is the "usefulness judged." No particular attribute of an art object can induce this pleasure, and the only way to bring it on is with esthetic attention. The experience is the judgment, and the judgment is the experience. Esthetic pleasure is only experience; and that experience is intense, pleasureable, swift, lively, unalloyed, indescribable, and real.

I believe that the aim of art, and indeed, of all life, is pleasure. Creativity is the joyful celebration of reality. Epicurus tried to justify this view. I will not because it would be misunderstood, and I have no further interest in propounding it. But I can say that I continually verify this belief with my experience. Esthetic pleasure is not dutiful, somber, educational, or practical. It's joyful, and that joy can grow and improve with cultivation. There is abundant evidence that our civilization values art more highly than any other material thing. And that is because art is not just material, not just the plain stuff I referred to before, but an embodiment of us at our best. Art holds our most valuable experience. And that experience is not only the essence of what it is to be human but the essence of what it is to be alive.

Thank you very much.


1. Sigmund Freud. "Leonard da Vinci and A Memory of His Childhood." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey in Collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey & Alan Tyson (London: The Hogarth Press, 1957), XI (1910), 63-137, and Edmund Bergler. Melville's Moby-Dick: (FIND PUBLISHING INFO)