Tunes for a Monday Morning
Fairy Tale Depravity

Growing into your work

An early version of Paradise Now by Jacqueline Morreau

From Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

"Writer Henry James once proposed three questions you could productively put to an artist's work: What was the artist trying to achieve? Did he/she succeed? The third's a zinger: Was it worth doing?

"The first two questions alone are worth the price of admission. They address art at a level that can be tested directly against real-world values and experience; they commit you to accepting the perspective of the maker into your own understanding of the work. In short, they ask you to respond to the work itself, without first pushing it through some aesthetic filter....

"But it's that third question -- Was it worth doing? -- that truly opens the universe. "

Two Women by Jacqueline Morreau

The art in this post is by Jacqueline Morreau and Jeanie Tomanek, two women I find enormously inspiring, whose creative work has these things in common:

Demeterssearch by Jeanie Tomenek1. It is beautiful, mythic, emotionally resonant, and intellectual compelling.

2. It is created by artists doing their most powerful work in their maturity (they were born in 1929 and 1949 respectively), despite a youth-obsesssed media/arts culture still uncomfortable with older women.

1.) It answers Henry James' all-important third question with a rousing "Yes!"

Above and to the left,"Two Women" and "The Divided Self" by painter/printmaker Jacqueline Morreau, an American born artist now living in London. You'll find her website here, and an article about her in the JoMA archives here.

Above (to the right) and below: "Demeter's Search," "After with Beagle," and "Planting Moon" by painter/poet Jeanie Tomanek, who lives and works in Georgia. You'll find her website here, and an article about her in the JoMA archives here.


I'm reminded of this quote by the great Japanese artist Hokusai (1760-1849), which I understand better and better every year:

"Since my sixth year I have felt the impulse to represent the form of things; by the age of fifty I had published numberless drawings; but I am displeased with all I have produced before the age of seventy. It is at seventy-three that I have begun to understand the form and the true nature of birds, of fishes, of plants and so forth. Consequently, by the time I get to eighty, I shall have made much progress; at ninety, I shall get to the essense of things; at a hundred, I shall certainly come to a superior, undefinable position; and at the age of a hundred and ten, every point, every line, shall be alive. And I leave it to those who shall live as I have myself, to see if I have not kept my word."

All rights to the art above reserved by the artists.


Thank you for this encouraging post Terri, I feel like I am only just getting into my stride now at 56 after a lifetime of trying to get the echos of dreams out of my head and into the real world... making each dream become a thing of substance, something I can touch & hold in my hands for others to see via drawing or carving or bookbinding or however they need to come out, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't quite make it but it's a life's work and there's still so many dream things to try!

A hard thing to accept about art: You usually have to learn how to do something before you're ready to ask why.

I just finished reading Art & Fear last night and was really impressed by precisely the passage that you've chosen to quote above. Lately when I write, before I begin to revise, I ask myself "So what?" In other words, "What will readers take away and is it something of value?" If I feel that the poem truly has something to give, not solely aesthetic pleasure (although that has value as well), then I will begin to revise and start the real work.

As a poet whose first full length work will be published when I am (gasp) 46 years old, I do appreciate the value of maturity (or what passes for maturity - my friends might laugh themselves silly if I claimed to be mature). More and more, I am fascinated by the images and ideas that continue to crop up in my work, my own personal mythos, as I look across the years.

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