Archive for September 3rd, 2022

Nevelson, Again


I think most artists create out of despair…. if labor pain is for physical birth, then there is a psychic pain and spiritual for creation…. The very nature of creation is not a performing glory on the outside, it’s a painful, difficult search within.

–Louise Nevelson, Dawns + Dusks (1976)

I came across the passage above from the late sculptor Louise Nevelson and it hit the mark for me. Despair is often a driving force in creation, at least as I know it. Even the joy that is sometimes reflected in my own work appears as the result of an attempt– the painful, difficult search within, as she puts it– to stave off some form of despair.

I thought coming across this passage would be a good opportunity to share a post from a few years back that featured Nevelson’s works and words.

No matter how individual we humans are, we are a composite of everything we are aware of. We are a mirror of our times.

Louise Berliawsky Nevelson

I am always intrigued by the images I see of the work of Louise Berliawsky Nevelson (1899-1988) who emigrated to the US from Ukraine in the early part of the 20th century. She is best known for her sculpture that is comprised of found objects assembled in large, monumental wall pieces that are often painted in monochromatic tones. There is visual excitement provided by the various shapes of the many bits and pieces contained within the sculptures. They are familiar forms, often dissembled furniture elements, that take on a new meaning in the work.

It makes me want to try to do that sort of thing, some kind of monumental assemblage. Something big and odd with inferred meaning hidden in the reimagining of common objects.

But the pull is not strong enough to ever get me to actually try. Nevelson’s art is interesting work that makes me try to see a meaning within it that fits my own vision and needs. But I can never quite see a way where it can do what I need it to do for myself. I take that as a sign that it is not my form of expression.

Plus, from a pragmatic standpoint, it looks like it would be a nightmare to dust.

Nevelson’s words above resonate with me. As humans, we are composites of everything we take in. Likewise, artists express this humanness in their work, mirroring their feelings taken from these influences.

I know this is definitely true for myself. I generally can’t help but reflecting my feelings on the world around me. I would think to try to not do so would make one’s work cold and distant. Inhuman.

And that takes us away from the purpose of art as expressions of our humanity.

So, to my artist friends out there, take in all you can and let the world know how you feel it. It’s the human thing to do.

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