Need a Creativity Jolt? Drop by a Modern Art Show

8 Imagination Boosters I got from SCOPE New York 2013

CliteracyWHAT’S TRULY WONDERFUL about so much of today’s visual Art is that it engages every sense, not just what you see (or think you see).

Next time you’re caught in a creative dry spell, spend a while wandering through a Contemporary Art show and have a universe of new ideas rain down on your parched psyche.

Case in point:  the just-concluded five-day SCOPE Fair at Moynihan Station in mid-town Manhattan featuring work by 90 exhibitors representing over 200 artists from around the world.

SCOPE bills itself as a “showcase for international emerging Contemporary Art and multi-disciplinary creative programming.” The several thousand visitors in attendance would testify to that, but most importantly, SCOPE is an example of how powerfully today’s visual Art genres can excite the imagination and spur creativity in all of us.

1)    Art shows deliver creativity in a handy mega-dose size. Contemporary Art ceased long ago to be about Technique; its current practitioners are driven by Innovation.

  • Sophia Collier makes carved acrylic water surface sculptures blending traditional machine milling, Pixar animation, 3D modeling and a computer “software brush” programmed to mesh sampled sound and motion properties of wind, pulse, breath and dance music.
  • For his Urban Flow series, photographer Adam Magyar built a one-of-a-kind digital slit-scan camera with accompanying computer software that rearranges “real” time and human interaction in public places.
  • In a fusion of Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting styles, Bradley Hart combines recycled bubble wrap and used paint as raw material for “paintings” that are given three-dimensional life by injection.
  • Marlene Rose’s sandcast glass sculptures merge centuries-old glassmaking technology with castoff industrial objects.

Our Information Age is continually enhanced by artists intent on finding un-normative ways to redeploy tried-and-true tools and technologies. The goofier you think a piece of Contemporary Art is, the more likely it will someday be part of your everyday life.

2)   It’s okay to laugh; it’s okay to cry. Art shows evoke strong visceral reactions. That’s Capital V Visceral, as in “felt in the internal organs of the body”, i.e. The Gut. ContemporaryArt tickles you, annoys you, puzzles you, frightens you, angers you, may occasionally gross you out … but it never stops trying to engage your emotions and your intellect.

SCOPE New York delivered Visceral to the max:

Art that’s in your face eventually migrates into your mind where it becomes part of your own creative toolkit.

3)   Next stop, Twilight Zone. Where else outside of your dreams can you talk live to Walt Whitman in a wooden crate and observe Mao Tse-tung embalmed in a Coca Cola vending case?

Contemporary Art surpasses normal dimensions of sound, sight, mind, etc. Familiar objects are taken out of context, bizarrely juxtaposed, unapologetically distorted … then transformed into entities ultimately as “logical” as anything else we take for granted in our everyday world.

  • human legs combined with plants, fish and fruit (Legs & Plants, Avishek Sen)
  • two men in full-body white rabbit suits playing with a coiled coral snake (The Scientists, Alex Podesta)
  • a wooden Canadian mountie with its legs chopped off at the ankles by an angry beaver (Maintiens le droit, Cooke-Sasseville)
  • a live human attired in high heels, fish-face mask and a latex suit covered with printed QR codes onlookers could scan with their phones and receive instant internet articles on how toxic chemicals affect the scanned body part (Body Code, Tiffany Trenda)

Like the Queen in Through the Looking Glass, Contemporary Art encourages you to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

4)   Don’t worry about “getting it”. Or nailing down a definitive answer to What the Heck Is That Supposed to Mean?

The real  “value” of Contemporary Art is that it doesn’t offer rigid answers but provokes intriguing questions like these installations:

Art shows allow you a couple hours to exercise your brain by looking at things in novel ways you’d never think of. Science says that’s good for us.

5)   Drill down into you. Contemporary Art isn’t really about the Artist. It’s about the Viewer. Your reactions about what you observe makes you peer deeper. Insists you peer deeper. Deeper at the world around you … and the world inside that you may not even realize exists.

Alex G. Cao creates digital portraits in which each pixel making up the larger portrait is a series of repeating images of another photograph. In JFK vs. Marilyn, the presidential visage of John F. Kennedy consists of miniscule pixels of Marilyn Monroe’s laughing face; pixels numbered 1962 and 1963 are replaced by an image of a candle and of a rifle — deliberate references to Marilyn’s infamous 1962 performance of “Happy Birthday” for Kennedy and JFK’s death in 1963.

Contemporary Art reminds us to take our time and see as well as look.

6)   Travel the world, meet interesting people, make Art with them. Creativity doesn’t need a passport. SCOPE had exhibitors from Vietnam, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Bolvia, Netherlands, England, Italy, Denmark, China, Canada, Venezuela, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Colombia, Thailand, South Korea, France and the U.S.

Even the most local art shows with the most local artists can send your imagination on a global trek.

7)   I can do this, too. Yep, some of the so-called Art on display is ridiculously simple in design and concept. “I could do that!” you snort.

Well, why don’t you?

We all have beaucoups of household items waiting to be creatively re-purposed by the fruits of our imagination. Witness Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell’s Tumbleweave sculpture of human hair and synthetic hair from the streets of Anacostia, John Breiner’s book cover paintings, Boun’s oil paintings mixed with jewel dust and mayonaisse, Hiroko Tsuchida’s Kaku assembled from safety pins, staintles steel and tombstones.

Maybe everyone doesn’t have a leftover tombstone in their closet. But you get the idea.

Contemporary Art says you’re allowed to make your own Art with your own rules. And that’a a definite Creativity refresher.

8)   Crowdsource creativity at the source. These other people you see at your local gallery openings taking care to stick close to the snack table — they’re probably pretty darn creative, too, once you get to know them.

Can you think of a better way to enlarge your network of fellow culture cohorts than by sharing time in a space devoted to mind-bending, life-altering Art?

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