Pearls from artists* # 581

October 18, 2023

With recent “Bolivianos”


*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

The essence of style is this: We have something in us, about us; it can be called many things, but for now let’s call it our original nature. We are born with our original nature, but on top of that, as we grow up, we accommodate to the patterns and habits of our culture, family, physical environment, and the daily business of the life we have taken on. What we are taught solidifies as “reality.” Our persona, the mask we show the world, develops out of our experience and training, step by step from infancy to adulthood. We construct our world through the actions of perception, learning, and expectation. We construct our “self” through the same actions of perception, learning, and expectation. World and self interlock and match each other, step by step and shape by shape. If the two constructions, self and world, mesh, we grow from child to adult becoming “normally adjusted individuals.” If they do not mesh so well, we may experience feelings of inner division, loneliness, or alienation.

If we should happen to become artists, our work takes on, to a certain extent, the style of the time: the clothing in which we are dressed by our generation, our country and language, our surroundings, the people who have influenced us.

But somehow, even when we are grown up and “adjusted,” everything we do and are – our handwriting, the vibrato of our voice, the way we handle the bow or breathe into the instrument, our way of using language, the look in our eyes, the pattern of whirling fingerprints on our hand – all these things are symptomatic of our original nature. They all show the imprint of our own deeper style or character.

Stephen Nachmanovitch in Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

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