Can we talk about the experience of getting an inspiration?
We’ve all experienced it: when a clear idea, visual picture, or feeling appears in our mind out of nowhere, very suddenly, forcefully, and often when we are distracted by something at that time. The new age writer, Deepak Chopra, wrote that this type of experience often occurs in the silence between the thoughts. (Can we assume then that Mozart and Shakespeare had many mental silences)? Chopra suggests that these brief moments of creative magic indicate that there’s a higher consciousness we are normally not aware of lying at a higher level, above conscious thinking. He asks, “Who is the thinker behind our thoughts?” or “who within you decides what you should think about?” Perhaps this concept appeals to you as a way to understand the inspirational process in your work as an artist.
You could also look at inspiration as happening and operating in other ways. They would not contradict Chopra’s hypothesis, but show the higher consciousness channeling itself in a variety of methods. For example, my father, Anthony D’Attilio, was a visual artist whose work excelled when he mixed drawing, water color, ink, and some collage. He used those media to express a fantastical long term look at human evolution. (So long term, in fact, that bones of ancient species may sit alongside a living figure in a contemporary bikini!) Anthony didn’t get a sudden inspiration for the full design of each art work. He demonstrated by drawing a simple little idea, such as a triangle, then elaborating on that through further inspirations. In this example of his work, you can see how evolved the combination of small inspirations became.
On the other hand, I get sudden visions that form the idea for my constructed photography works. This seems different then the idea formation processes of my father. I imagine this points to higher consciousness applying itself. My challenge is translating this fuller vision of the work into the processes of the photography medium. Yet I can’t complain; having a whole vision is an exciting event in my life.
Perhaps the way we create is also connected to the way we dream and fantasize. Lately, I have tried combining photographs as figurative elements with other photos modified into abstractions. It is the way of my latest project, “The New Global Women”. It explores the emotional feelings of young educated Vietnamese women’s quandary in resolving their global career ambitions with their traditional culture. For some of the work I make straight photo portraits combined with photo derived abstract elements. It is a design process that depends on my own sense of these women, my sense of their emotions expressed as fantasy, and the use of symbolic materials that define the woman and her challenges. It is a new way for me to go and I often am struggling through some creative phases of some of the works. Eventually, I think the methods and processes will become less halting and the image creating will flow more readily.
I will write again about this work another time. I am motivated about this discussion of inspiration because I think artists work better when they can comprehend and use that good fortune with confidence. Meanwhile I would love to know how you deal with your own inner challenge to flush out your nothing that suddenly becomes a something.