I’ve long been fascinated with the work of the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who studies and writes about creativity and the concept of flow. The phenomenon of flow occurs when an individual engaged in a creative process experiences increased focus and consciousness, becoming so completely absorbed in the act of making art, or writing, or playing, that one in the midst of this experience loses track of time and is unaware of its passing.
In January, Rauol and Davide Perré, the artists known as How and Nosm, came to WVU to deliver the Deem Distinguished Artist lecture at the opening of Paper Trail, their exhibit in the Laura Mesaros Gallery at the CAC. During their stay, they created an amazing two-story mural in the Plevin Lobby of the new Art Museum in advance of the museum’s August 2015 opening.
How & Nosm, along with Jacob Lewis, whose NY gallery represents the twin brothers’ work, graciously agreed to spend an evening sharing the work-in-process with members of the Friends of the Art Museum. The brothers had been working on the mural for two days when the Friends event took place. Museum staff wondered (and worried a bit) about how the group would respond to the art and how it would go for the artists to discuss their unfinished work. Would it be disruptive to them? Would they mind having their creative flow interrupted? Would the group be open to an art form rooted in graffiti?
It’s asking a great deal of artists to share their work with strangers before it’s finished. Some artists find it difficult to discuss their completed works at allthe art speaks for itself. It’s just not something that everyone necessarily feels comfortable doing or does well. Trying to articulate intentions and inspirations for artwork can be risky, especially when it may be misunderstood. As it turned out, we needn’t have worriedthe Friends proved a receptive audience, expressing their enthusiasm for the mural and gratitude for this special opportunity to interact with the artists, who were friendly, charming, and inspiring.
Likewise, members of the audience at February’s Art Up Close! program counted themselves quite fortunate to witness a compelling demonstration of virtuosity. Professor Jeff Greenham of Fairmont State University, a WVU grad, discussed technique and process as he analyzed a lidded bowl in the museum collection by the renown potter Warren MacKenzie. When Jeff selected this ceramic piece, he decided he didn’t want to simply discuss it; instead, he set for himself the challenge of making a similar piece in order to discover what both he and the audience might learn through this process.
Working in front of an audience and beside a large screen that projected his work so everyone could see, Jeff created a bowl and its lid on the wheel. Not only were Jeff’s deft handling of the clay and his mastery of the wheel impressive, what was equally striking was his ability to easily converse with his audience, describing what he was doing and answering questions while making the pieces—and making the whole process appear almost effortless due to his considerable skills.
With a nod to Rachael Ray and other TV chefs, Jeff then uncovered additional versions of the same form he had prepared to show the various stages of the process from drying to bisque ware. Just days earlier, Jeff had found one of MacKenzie’s glaze recipes that seemed to match the green of the bowl and rushed to fire a piece in time to have it completed for the program. The unveiling of this finished piece drew appreciative applause from the audience although Jeff modestly commented that he liked the MacKenzie piece better.
Both Art Up Close! and the Evening with How and Nosm were marked by the generosity of these artists who freely shared their time and artwork. Both were memorable programs offering those in attendance meaningful insights into the creative flow of gifted artists.