MUSE-ical Chairs

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November 10, 2012 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

For the past couple of weeks, I had been entrenched in a futile period of writer’s block; I just didn’t have anything to write.  That was the most frustrating part of the entire ordeal, the fact that I had absolutely nothing.  It wasn’t as though I couldn’t annunciate or formulate what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t figure out what to say.  It is infinitely aggravating to be incapable of doing something that you know you can do….because you’ve done it so many times before.  To have that creativity and insight simply stop is terrifying.

Inspiration is a funny thing, because it can be anything.  Any noun can be a source of inspiration.  In Ancient Greece it was believed that the source of inspiration came from the nine muses (goddesses of art).  To this day the term muse is used to denote something (usually a person) that inspires artistic creativity.  The idea of a person, knowingly or unknowingly, inspiring someone else to express themselves in any artistic fashion is nothing short of amazing.  How?  How can one person inspire another to create?

The first person that comes to mind is Pablo Picasso.  Let’s be honest, every woman he had sex with became his muse at one point or another.  His relationship with Fernande Olivier inspired him so much so that she is seen as the motivating force in his transition from his Blue Period to his Rose Period.  The former was characterized by depressing images using mostly blue colors, while the latter was focused more on upbeat and cheerful images using pinks and oranges.  Olivier, by virtue of simply being who she was, proved to be more than enough for Picasso to do a 180 from starving depressed artist to jubilant and manic creator.  Look at The Old Guitarist and contrast that with The Actor, the difference is spectacular.  How could this have been done merely from being with another person?

During the mid-1920s Picasso’s affections were held by two women in particular: Dora Maar and Marie-Therese Walter.[1]  Even though his courtship with both women overlapped, both inspired him in different ways.  Despite the fact that he was long out of his Blue Period and Rose Period the way each woman inspired him was reminiscent of both phases of his career.  Le Reve, inspired by Walter is more reminiscent of his Pink Period whereas Dora Maar au Chat draws comparisons from his Blue Period.  I’m guessing that each woman’s personality inspired him to create differently.  Maar was often depressed and more somber than the lively and cheery Walter.  However, Picasso referred to Maar as his “Private Muse” and painted over 60 portraits of her.  Does this mean that he valued Maar’s influence over Walter’s or that Maar’s inspiration was more important than Walter’s?  Would he just draw Maar when he was depressed, or would her emotions inspire how he drew her?  The Weeping Woman was solely inspired by Maar because, according to Picasso “Dora, for me, was always a weeping woman”.  For someone as creative as Picasso, it’s seems almost funny that most of his mistresses served as his muses.  Someone of his stature, we assume to just be innately creative, but without his muses would he still have been the Pablo Picasso we remember him to be?

Although nowhere near as impressive as Picasso, Kevin Smith (the director) is another example of someone who needed inspiration from another person.  His best movie is without a doubt Chasing Amy and that’s because he actually had something personal to say.  The plot of the movie was loosely adapted from his own pursuit of Joey-Lauren Adams, the actress who plays Alyssa Jones in the movie.  It’s his best movie because unlike most of his other movies, he actually had something to say this time around.  The reason why he had something to say was because he was inspired to say something by Joey-Lauren Adams.  After Dogma, any inspiration he might have had hasn’t been translated into his movies and they’ve suffered because of that.  Clerks was inspired by his own Sisyphusian predicament in life, but it’s not as powerful as Chasing Amy.  I think the reason for this, besides budgetary reasons, was that he was inspired by a person, a woman, instead of the cyclical nature of his life.  And I think for some reason people inspiring other people has always been the most powerful form of inspiration.

These are only two examples, but they’re examples of the stereotype: people we’re attracted to tend to inspire us.  Think about how many songs out there are inspired by women.[2]  Therefore, when someone inspired us, is it some manifestation of our own feelings towards them, or in the case of Picasso and Dora is it the inspiration source imposing itself on the creative will?  Or is it the fact that creativity, as both a facet and outlet of emotions, would necessitate something else as equally emotionally powerful (say love or lust) to draw it out?  As with most things in life, inspiration is fleeting, that’s why you have to grab it and make the most of it when it’s there, because there’s no guarantee it’ll be there when you wake up the next morning.

[1] Probably many more, but these two stick out the most.

[2] Excluding derogatory rap songs.


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