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Posts Tagged ‘Rainer Maria Rilke’

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The film Jojo Rabbit premiered on HBO over the weekend, which made me very happy. It hits a lot of sweet spots for me.

A great cast and a script filled with a beguiling mix of dark satire and tragic poignancy. Strong visuals. Big laughs and plenty of tears. Ridiculous (but still scary) Nazis.

Hitler eating a unicorn.

Yeah, you read that right.

There’s even some poetry from Rainer Maria Rilke as the film ends, a snippet from his poem Go to the Limits of Your Longing, which is shown at the top. Words that seem applicable to this time, for sure.

It also uses its soundtrack brilliantly. It begins with the Beatles singing their German version of I Want to Hold Your Hand over archival clips of Hitler’s adoring fans at huge nationalistic rallies that are chilling in their magnitude and fervor. Images from the infamous Nuremberg rally always puts a knot in my stomach. The film ends with the German performance from David Bowie of his always rousing Heroes.

Filmmaker Taika Waititi also makes brilliant use of the song Everybody’s Gotta Live. It’s a song from 1972 from a band of that era, Love, that is very underappreciated. Led by the late Arthur Lee, it was an interesting group, a multiracial group that dabbled in folk rock and psychedelia a la the Byrds. Their 1967 release, Forever Changes, is on the Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Rock Albums and was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2011.

Even so, I am sure most of us haven’t heard much of their work. But it shines in Jojo Rabbit and is certainly worth examining further.

Here’s a video with the lyrics and images from the film just to give you taste. If you get a chance to see the film, I recommend it highly. But be forewarned, that it is art and, as such, is a subjective thing. What I love may not move you at all.

Take a look and give a listen then have a good day. We all deserve one.

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“You know that great pause that comes upon things before the dusk, even the breeze stops in the trees. To me there is always an air of expectation about that evening stillness.”

H.G. Wells , The Time Machine

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The painting shown here, about 15″ x 24″ on paper, is titled Working to Stillness. It is included in my upcoming solo exhibit, From a Distance, that opens next Friday, July 17, at the West End Gallery.

I debated quite a bit over the title. I had read a letter of advice from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke that spoke of the great movements of activity that take place within us when we are still, sometimes resulting in great works at a later time. That made me think of making the title this painting Working From Stillness rather than To.

But I thought of the stillness that comes at the end of those days of great activity, of toil both physical and mental. When the tasks have been completed and set aside for the day, there is a sense of relief and satisfaction that sets upon the body and mind. Stillness arrives.

It’s a good feeling for me and one that I look forward to most days. I often think of my days as working to this stillness.

This piece captures that feeling for me. It has great warmth and an abundance of strength. I think I used the term muscularity when I was talking about it when I delivered the show to the gallery yesterday. It has that kind of physicality to it. I don’t know how to really describe what I mean by that but it sounds right. Maybe it comes from what I see as the strength of the colors and forms in this piece.

Whatever the case, it’s a piece that has great and undeniable presence in its setting. Maybe that’s the part that speaks most to me in these times where we all feel a need to have our voices heard. This one demands that its voice be heard.

Even in its stillness.

 

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“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

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I have always felt a companionship of sorts with the words of the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). I find the themes in his poetry and writings often echoing in the feelings and sensations of my own life.

Perhaps the piece of writing with which I feel the most connected is a series of letters he wrote between 1902 and 1908 to a young Army officer who was conflicted about the choice between pursuing a career either a military officer or a poet. The officer, Franz Xaver Kappus, released them as a book, Letters to a Young Poet, in 1929, three years after Rilke’s death from leukemia at the age of fifty one.

There is so much tremendous advice and guidance in his words that apply to anyone seeking a creative life. I have been mentoring a young artist as part of a program with a local arts organization and I only wish I could pass on a tiny fraction of Rilke’s advice to this artist. I had a very enjoyable talk with him the other day and while I believe there was some good advice given, it certainly didn’t approach the depth and breadth of that given by Rilke.

Take the bit at the top of the page, speaking of how to deal with the artist’s journey and growth. He describes the solitary nature of this journey, one that creates changes that sometimes take the artist mentally beyond and away from those people around him. That is the natural course for the artistic journey. In order to grow, the artist must be willing to seek and travel to places internally to which they cannot fully take or even properly describe to those around them.

This inner journey can be both a testing and a blessing. Finding common ground in which to live in this world with those around the artist is an important step in coping with this inner journey.

I didn’t mention that to the person I was mentoring. Maybe next time.

The painting at the top is from 2004 and is titled, appropriately, Common Ground. I definitely see the wise words from Rilke in this painting.

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GC Myers- Canyon of DoubtsCreativity requires introspection, self-examination, and a willingness to take risks. Because of this, artists are perhaps more susceptible to self-doubt and despair than those who do not court the creative muses.

Eric Maisel

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This new painting, 8″ by 10″ on panel, is called Canyon of Doubts. For me, it represents the navigation that takes place in the creative process as the artist tries to get past the formidable obstacles of self doubt.  Doubt often throws up barriers that has the artist asking if they are good enough, if they have the talent, training, and drive to create true art that speaks for them to the world. Doubt makes them fear that they are out of place, that they don’t belong, that every other artist has more right to create than them.

Doubt keeps the artist seemingly boxed in with no apparent way forward.

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Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Kahlil Gibran

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I’ve been trapped in that canyon many times. I’ve thought many times that there was no way out, that the fears posed by my doubts were the realities of who and what I was.

I have always felt alone with my doubts.  Words of encouragement from others often felt hollow when I was lost in those canyons.  They didn’t know how steep the walls of doubts seemed to me or how inadequate, how ill-prepared I felt in that moment.

The only option that seemed available to me was to trust that I could somehow fight my way out of those daunting canyons. It would mean mustering every bit of talent, every ounce of energy, and a sustained belief that I deserved to have my voice rise from out of  those canyons. It was matter of  either having the faith in my own value as human to find my way free or withering away in a canyon of doubts.

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Your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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I still find myself in those canyons. I still find myself periodically looking up at the walls that surround me and wonder if I am talented enough, strong enough, or even entitled to escape them.

But I now know that there is a path through them, one that is well worn with my own footprints from my past journeys in that shadowed place.  I know that, even though it is lonely and seemingly unbearable in that moment, I don’t have to be trapped in that place of doubt.

I’ve traveled this path and there is indeed a way out.

It takes time and effort and devotion.  It takes the belief in yourself, forged from past experience, that you will make the right decisions and not be trapped in those walls.  It’s in having the faith that when take a wrong turn, when you make a mistake, that you will recognize it and get quickly back to the path that sets you free.

At the moment, I may well be in that canyon still but I have the moon guiding me and its light shows me where the canyon ends.

And then I will be free once more.

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