Sunday, October 03, 2010

Haystack Mountain

Last week at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, Maine, the dripping trees, the fog, the moss on the rocks and even the architecture made me think about the timelessness of Japanese art, where nature is not so much looked at as it is lived in.

I was at Haystack for a gathering of Maine's arts leaders, and learned a lot that I did not know about the intersection of government, the arts, and the business sector. At the same time, I've been reading.

The Music Instinct by Philip Ball makes the case that music is something we cannot live without, that it is "a gymnasium for the mind" and that "no other activity seems to use so many parts of the brain at once." The same case could be made, I believe, for making and appreciating the visual arts. Art and music are more than candy for the eye and ear.

The other book I've been working through, a few pages at a time at odd moments, is Ludwig Tieck's Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen. Franz has been a student of Albrecht Durer, and is setting out for Italy to study with the masters there. When it comes to descriptions of the art world, this book could have been written yesterday, but the actual date of publication is 1798. In one respect however, the art world has changed radically. Artists no longer get to act like misunderstood children, but are expected to engage, if not with government, then at least with each other and with their communities.

Here's a loose translation from the book, in which the author speaks to Franz the childlike adult, the adult-like child. "How fine for you that you are still shielded from humanity's craziness and misery, that you can be wholly devoted to yourself and your first love [art].  For most people there comes a time when winter takes over their summer, when they forget themselves in order to appear right to other people, when they no longer make sacrifices on behalf of their soul, but place their own hearts as sacrifices on the altars of worldly pride."

So High Romanticism has passed into the annals of cultural history, and we are all most likely better for it, though wouldn't it be nice to have uninterrupted studio time, time for wandering, and for it to be always summer, at Haystack, in Maine.

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