Saturday, May 19, 2007

Something to look forward to

Scientists have apparently discovered that the creative and cognitive activities of the brain are different in the ways they respond to stresses and aging. A friend forwarded this from Robert Genn.

Creativity and the onset of dementia have recently prompted a great deal of study and speculation. Dr. Luis Fornazzari of the Memory Clinic at the Division of Neurology, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, in a paper published on Tuesday, stated, "Art should be understood as a cognitive function with its own neural networks." His findings include the discovery that painters, musicians and writers who develop brain disorders may continue to be competent in their art for some time after losing other faculties. Our main brain, it seems, is vulnerable to attack just as a computer hard drive is to viruses, while our art brain is like an outboard memory card--somewhat protected or at least delayed in its potential corruption. The main characteristic of all artists seems to be that skills, techniques and methodologies need to be well learned or self-taught. In other words, ingrained skills persist and can be the last to go.

I knew it! I knew it! I always felt that de Kooning’s late paintings were some of his best—if not some of the best—paintings ever. But I still run into people who groan and say, “But he had Alzheimer’s….” And I think, so what! Aren’t they looking? That the knowledge of how a painting was created could affect the experience of it in otherwise intelligent people boggles my mind, and is another example of “art world inattentional blindness” (see Seeing…and not seeing below). It's also ironic that the lack of real world awareness that's so disparaged in late de Kooning, is considered valuable in Outsider artists.

I don't understand why should it make a difference that de Kooning had Alzheimer’s and not that Pollock might have been drunk when he made some of his famous paintings. And what about the garbage that clutters the minds of those of us who aren’t afflicted with Alzheimer’s or alcoholism? Am I a worse or better painter when I’m preoccupied with lost love, unpaid bills, and the leak in the basement? When I’m exhausted or well-rested? Hungry or not hungry? What about the brain cells that have been permanently damaged by conversations with Verizon DSL Customer Service?

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