A Short Jazz Tutorial

The essence of jazz is improvisation, playing variations on a melody, substituting extra notes and chords. Every musical piece has a harmonic structure; that is, a sequence of chords that fit together, sound good. Almost all musical pieces have a beginning and an end. They may include one or more 7-note standard scales such as C major, E minor, etc. A folk or blues tune will often have only 3 chords, one scale and last 12 to 24 measures. This gives a very simple feel and is easy for people to learn. On the other end of the complexity spectrum is classical music which will be lengthy, cycle through many scales and chords, change melodies, and require some education to appreciate.
Jazz is a term used loosely and rightly so because to create a box called “jazz” would violate the main principle of improvisation and experimentation. Anyone can improvise just as anyone can finger-paint. The best classical composers can improvise on the spot, but using refined rules. The difference between musical finger-painting and jazz is found in the skill and talent of the musician. So the jazz musician must be familiar with all the chords, all the scales, and a repertoire of tunes.
So if we take a tune like “Happy Birthday” and jazz it up, we would add a number of substitute chords or passing chords to the original three chords. Some substitute chords may suggest a change in melody to fit that new chord. Then we would diverge from the original melody at will as long as we play notes that match the correct chord. Each scale sounds right with certain chords and wrong with others. So when we sit down to play “Happy Birthday”, we and others in the band will know the chord sequence and basic melody (or have it written down). If it’s a band, someone will start with the standard melody, other members will support by keeping their notes within the proper scale and chord. The soloist or “front man” will play a number of improvised cycles of the tune, returning to the beginning of the tune each time. The “rhythm section” is usually a bass, drums and piano or guitar, and their job is to maintain the tempo and chord sequence so the band will not get lost. While improvising it’s possible to get off track and not know where in the tune you are. This is embarrassing. Each tune usually ends by returning to the beginning or “head” to play the standard melody.
You can jazz anything up using these techniques. Even though Mozart, Bach and Beethoven were great improvisers and jazz pianists, there were no recordings. So they would write it down and now we play it as written and call it classical music. Today’s jazz genre has grown out of blues, show tunes and dance band. These “jazz standards” are tunes from this tradition, many borrowed from these previous styles, others composed by a jazz master. Jazz standards are 12 to 32 measures long and always repeat a number of times. It can be very practical to repeat many times; thus one needs to learn fewer tunes for a recording or concert. However, the more repetition, the greater the need for real creativity.
The basic three person combo will have written down or memorized a sequence of chords and a melody for many tunes. An experienced group will have hundreds of tunes memorized in this fashion and will have the skill to play the tunes in any key. A combo or band that has more than 2 or 3 front men (soloists) will need someone to arrange the tune, so the piece becomes more orchestral and more fixed, yet allowing passages for improvisation. The big dance bands started this tradition of allowing a skilled soloist to “ad lib.”
Jazz and classical music require about the same musicianship. Both use complex chord sequences and melodies, changing scales, including difficult passages. By tradition, jazz differs in that tunes are shorter, there is a more rhythmic bass and drum, more unusual rhythms, the melodies tend toward a be-bop, be-bob rhythm rather than a da-da-da found in classical, and many of the tunes are familiar as popular songs. The big difference of course is that a classical piece sounds almost identical no matter who or when it is played because every note is written down.
I find listening to jazz is interesting and entertaining, even enlightening because I pay attention to these elements. It helps to recognize the tune, or it is a catchy tune. There are some melodies which are harder to like but the band wrote them; ergo you have to listen. Then there is that beat and rhythm which can make you want to dance or at least move. The virtuosity of a soloist can be amazing or obnoxious, creative or repetitive. Recognizing the tune or getting familiar as it is played, I begin to anticipate the chord changes during improvisation. Thus the soloist may be off on a tangent but I hear the original melody in my head. This is where many people get lost in that we always want to understand the pattern and the soloist may not give us enough predictability. However the icing on the cake is listening to how each player relates to the others and how each fits in to a total sound, how they “cook”. And usually there are little incidental “riffs” played by supporting members that spice up the piece, if you are watching for them. This is all much easier in concert. Another subtlety found in jazz is “pushing the beat” when notes are played just slightly ahead of the regular beat; this tends to add energy, speed and power to the feel of a piece.
GLOSSARY–
Scale – In western tradition is 7 notes, do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. There are 12 major scales, 12 minor scales and other scales defined by the intervals between each note in the scale.
Chord – The basic chord is 3 notes played together such as do-mi-so, or re-fa-la. Notice the space between each note. More complex chords include 1 to 4 notes added to the original 3.
Measure sometimes called a “bar” – a small unit of music mostly consisting of 3 or 4 beats. A piece will have at least 12 measures. “Happy Birthday” has 8 measures and 3 beats in each measure.
Beat – Each measure is divided into beats. Tunes typically keep to a specific number of beats per measure and the drummer will emphasize these beats. There may be 2,3,4 or more beats per measure. A waltz always has three which gives it a wave-like feel.
Melody – usually the high notes played by one instrument that stand out, like the words of a song.
Rhythm – How individual notes are spaced out in time. It can be very regular or irregular and will influence the feel of a piece. “Happy Birthday” is very regular. “Jack and Jill” is irregular and more jazzy. Soul music introduced a lot of irregular rhythms or “funk”. Reggae music tends to “drag” the beat by playing slightly after the beat.

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Trompe L’oeil and the Conquest of The Senses

The practice of art was preceded by the art of language which communicates in symbols representing real or imagined things and ideas. The first artists drew symbolic images of animals imbued with the idea and behavior of the real thing, but still a fantasy. But with the advent of photography, video and now internet, audio-visual images have proliferated to the point where much of our lives is spent in fantasy. By fantasy I mean that a photo or video is not the real thing but a conjured image that looks real. As in painting, these fantasies often have a touch of reality. But many people are influenced by false images that have been “photoshopped”. The term “trope l’oeil” is French for “fool the eye” and refers to the way in which visual arts often give the perception of a three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface.
Much of our symbolic life is dominated by advertising, aided by government tax breaks. The universal themes are sex, violence, prestige and above all consumption. So “buyer beware!” Pop artists like Andy Warhol, explained how art and commerce are now united. Art has always been subject to patronage by the rich and powerful but only in the modern age are visual images available to all and also unavoidable. One can cling to the belief that “true art” is not commercial; however, the old masters usually painted scenes to support the reigning status quo such as religion, royalty, or wealthy bourgeois society. After all, the artist has to eat. Today there are true artists who use their creativity to seduce you to consume. One can say they have “sold out” but we cannot ignore their art. Every person now has access to this art.
In contrast, abstract and minimalist artists offer a real alternative and a path to experiential reality. They say, “Here is paint. Here is an object. Love it for what it is.” Primitive peoples are shocked when they encounter a photo of themselves. “How can one be in two places at the same time? Has part of me been stolen and trapped on paper?” These people are naive to the symbolic world of art but wise in the experience of reality.
To cleanse ourselves from our commercial audio-visual environment we would have to cloister ourselves in silence and prayer. We would still struggle in meditation with the myriad images that continue to reverberate in our minds. The Chinese scholars meditated on nature, one sure guarantee of reality. We need more of this.
In the face of the commercial invasion of our senses and manipulation of our thoughts, we artists can create our own reality. In so doing we set a path for independence and dignity. The artwork we create comes from our unique vision but also reflects the milieu in which we live.

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Zen Art

An Artist Revisits “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
While stumbling around in the art world, I finally tackled Pirsig’s rambling autobiography that includes a review of classical Greek philosophy, and more importantly, tries to reduce and unify all human thought to its source which is zen. And approaching the book from an art perspective, I found his discussion of “quality” or “gumption” to resonate with my experiences of inspiration and creativity.
Quality is something everyone can recognize but cannot define or teach. We experience this quality when we first conceive of a subject, massage the scene in a sketch, stumble upon a technique, or arrive at a solution to some troubling problem. Zen is that state of mind from which our inspiration springs. One sees zen in many creative endeavors such as the composition of a song, the creation of a new business, religious clarity, or love of another.
Pirsig advises, when faced with a motorcycle problem, one must spend time looking and waiting. I recall a professional artist saying he spent more time thinking than painting. in art this means meditation, as “thinking” can be easily contaminated by the rules we have been taught or other social motives. Our thoughts become dominated by the rules we learn from parents, teachers and peers; for example the rule “it must look like a physical object”, or “it must qualify you for a job”. Ignoring these rules is hard and requires tuning into an inner nature, valuing our sensations or feelings over thought, reacting rather than planning. This will not guarantee quality but it takes a step in that direction. Picasso said it best, and I paraphrase, “it took a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child”.
When impulse and training coincide, true art may flourish in a zen moment. For we cannot escape our training, our culture, our history. My art teacher once said “context is everything”. For art or any creative event to have meaning it must relate to the other elements of our lives. Neuropsychology has proven our perceptions are guided by a powerful pattern recognition system. Our mind seeks to identify known patterns in order to react properly. In art there must be a balance between the familiar pattern and the surprise. This balance can only be found intuitively and individually. No art critic can tell you where your quality is, only where it is for them. However, we all wish to communicate with others, and therefore feedback can reveal the patterns that are best recognized by others.
In music the most popular tunes are those with repeating patterns. However, the mind becomes bored with too much repetition. When a musician plays an altered version of an old song, incorporating his unique voice into the familiar pattern, then some zen has emerged. Inversely, the zen listener may react to a familiar pattern or tune by noticing something different, by “hearing for the first time”, by connecting a new riff or sensation with that great body of patterns already installed in his mind. The child psychologist, Piaget, noted that when a child connects a new idea with his existing understanding, he laughs.
The role if the art teacher is fascinating and challenging. Is the teacher a disciplinarian or an inspiration, a therapist or trainer? What can be taught is analysis, rules and techniques. The human relationship with ones teacher transcends the rules.The great trend in western civilization has been to quantify, measure and define everything, to mass market. Pirsig describes in detail the limits of the scientific and logical methods and concludes that quality is overwhelmed by data. You may have noticed that businesses don’t answer phones anymore; its done by electronic algorythm. Where is the quality in communicating your concern with another living mind? I must warn that quality, like nature, will not in the end be ignored. Pirsig recalls a period in his life as being “the wolf”, the one who refuses to accept training, the revolutionary, the devil’s advocate, the outsider. Primitive societies which struggled daily with nature, freely indulged in superstition, magic, myth, and irrational values. They adpoted animal personas because they were in communion with animals. Many modern artists have touted the value of primitive art. Their zen was in the context of a wilderness envirnment. Our zen is in quite another context and I think we lack the perspective to evaluate the patterns inherant in our society.
It is difficult within the limits of language to provide a sure path to finding your zen and putting it in perspective with your history and training. I find that spending time alone is essential. Others have argued that seriously adopting any of the many spiritual practices is the way. Each must find his own path.

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TIPS FOR ADULTS WITH ATTENTION DEFICIT

This article is dedicated to my son and wife who provided all the content.
1. Understand what the condition ADD means and that it is permanent. It can’t be cured. Trying harder doesn’t work. Other people don’t understand because they don’t have it. ADD must be accepted and can be managed. It will affect how you deal with life. The biggest challenge is getting things done that aren’t naturally fun or interesting. Keeping commitments and deadlines can be hard. The mind wants to wander. One approach is to take your self off-line for a while every day; like when you take a dog for a walk. Plan to procrastinate. Figure how much time you waste in a day and just plan to be free for that amount of time. After all, you’ll waste it anyway.
2. When in group or classroom situation, try to sit at the front or where the speaker can see you.
3. Set short deadlines and plan for short spurts of work. Use a timer. Break tasks into small pieces and work them each for a short time. You can even bounce from one piece to another. Organize projects in folders. You can pull a folder to work on, then switch to another when you get bored.
4. Reward yourself for a time spent working, not for completing the whole project. A reward can be a coffee break, talking to friends, computer time, etc. When a task is completed, cross it off your list but add it to a “goals met” list; this lets you see how much you have accomplished.
5. Make a promise to someone else that you will complete a task. This will increase the motivation, especially if and the other person is handy to keep you on task. If you are serious about a big project or career priority, enlist someone to be your partner or assistant. If you have the resources, delegate the busy work to someone else. Schedule regular meetings to review your goals with your support group or your boss.
6. Say “no” when people ask you to do something. This will prevent your becoming over-committed. They will either find someone else to do it or they will argue with you and that will increase your motivation. “No” as a default will ensure that you only take on the important jobs which will be more interesting.
7. Develop a ritual of keeping lists of tasks and a detailed calendar. Schedule short times on the calendar for small tasks. Make the calendar large or put it on a white board. Break each day into many blocks to represent major activities like eating, work, relax, communicate, travel. Or use a planner that can be kept with you. Keep paper by the bed and write down anything that you think of. Get it off you mind for the night. Tomorrow you can decide what to do.
8. The reason we call it “work” is that it’s hard. Don’t expect it to be fun. It might even be painful.
9. When surrounded by alligators, attack the biggest one first. One often avoids the important issues by taking up time with little jobs.
10. Learn what environments are best for avoiding distractions. You might work best in a closet or in a bus station. At your job, take work to another area if your office is full of interruptions. Keep your work area free of distractions. You may use headphones with music or white noise.
11. Work standing up. That will focus you on short tasks. Sitting down invites the mind to relax and wander.
12. Practice “mind mapping” to organize your thoughts. Study the “Getting Things Done” approach. Find them online.
13. Ritalin and other stimulant drugs have proven useful to focus the mind. It wears off after a few hours so it is best used when you plan to be productive. Like any psychoactive drug, you should observe its effects and manage the dose.  If you have an intense 8 to 5 schedule, taking it every workday may be best.  You may find it helps you manage responsibilities but doesn’t feel good.  Sometimes there’s a trade-off between feeling good and doing good.
14. Some people concentrate better when hearing or seeing rather than writing. Visual images like pictures, doodles, diagrams, or mind maps may work better. Here is where a white board can be great. You may like an audio channel and record your voice or a meeting to play back later. You can leave yourself notes on voice mail.
15. Plan some exercise everyday. It’s good for you, clears the mind and reduces stress.

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PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART

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We’ve heard a lot about how the advent of photography impacted the world of painters. Now 150 years after the invention of the film camera I think we have adapted to the camera to the point that many artists use both photography and paint. The two media have cross-fertilized.

I began my artistic explorations with a camera. In fact I had never set foot in an art museum. That could undoubtedly be said for the majority of today’s iPhone picture snappers. So even as photography had co-opted the artist’s role as recorder of people and events, it has empowered the masses to begin to see the world in artistic terms. Prior to the camera, very few people could become skilled in representing reality on a surface. In my case I learned a lot about light, color, depth and composition by shooting pictures. And many of the principles discussed in photography magazines were developed over the ages by master painters.

Now the motivation to create a lasting image must be similar for the painter and photographer. I’ve often felt that making a picture was an attempt to capture something interesting or beautiful, fixing it for all time. For the abstract artist that something would be more from a fleeting imagination, now made permanent and unchanging. Like renaissance painting, photography began by making accurate representations of people and events. And like painting, photography has grown to embrace the creative and abstract.

Imagine painting without a camera. Every painting would have to be in vivo, en plein aire, with live model, etc. The ephemeral photo is indispensable for many of us. As a model, it can sit there for many hours or weeks without aging, moving, darkening or changing. One must be alert to the limitations of painting from photos. The camera has only one eye where our two are better at perceiving depth. Painting on a flat surface is also like having one eye and artists have developed various tricks to imply depth. Both film and digital photography cannot register the range of color and value that the eyes can. And likewise paint cannot reproduce emitted light, like the sun or TV screen, only reflected light. The artist must then be fully aware of media and consciously manipulate it, be it paint or digital, creating an image that cannot be real but must be stimulating to the mind.

One might argue that there is something more organic in painting from real life, that the camera interposes a machine between the artist and the scene. The camera itself cannot take in a full panorama, nor can it smell, hear, or interact with a model. But hold, I’m being too petty as paint and brush are as inanimate as the camera. Photographers work in milliseconds and must be hyper-alert for that right moment. Painters can take more time. More in tune with modern reality, the photographer will grab and run, where the painter is more contemplative.

Photography is akin to printmaking as it is designed to make multiple, even endless, reproductions. So painting still holds that vaunted position of being the “one and only”. Still photography, like the industrial age that spawned it, challenges the artist to seek inspiration rather than repetition.

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Grand Canyon Boat Tour July 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis inner canyon tour is not just a raft trip. It is partly rafting down the Colorado River, 200+ miles. It is also camping nightly on the many small beaches along the river. It’s running some 50+ rapids, and it’s also several hikes along side streams to spectacular waterfalls. My son and I took the 6-day trip at the end of July when the weather was hot and the river has been muddied by a recent rain storm.

The Canyon itself is deep and filled with towering temples rising 3000 to 5000 feet above the river. I believe if you took the Great Pyramids, Machu Pichu, Anchor Wat, and the Mayan Temples and lined them up, then repeated that over and over in a line to stretch 280 miles, you would have something resembling the Grand Canyon. The Canyon is so overwhelming in size and extent that I couldn’t really grasp it, much less describe it. It’s a bit like landing on the moon or taking a world cruise. One of our party read some excerpts from an author who waxed most poetic on the beauty of the Canyon. I’m afraid I can’t respond with such emotion or emoting. I must react in a different way. It’s interesting how an experience can affect people differently.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARafting crews take 7-8 days to boat the 280 mile length of the canyon. They provide shorter trips as well. There are also trails in and out of the Canyon which allow for different entrances and exits as well as extensive hiking in the Canyon. Hiking down to the river and back up another route would give one a good overview and would take 2-4 days depending on one’s condition. There are a few campgrounds inside, some with water. One must always plan for water as the heat can kill you. We hiked 5 hours down the scenic Bright Angel Trail, which was for both of us very taxing as it descended 5000 feet over 9 miles. All 7 of us who hiked down to the boats, were exhausted that night and most of the next day. The trail down crosses a number of ecological strata from pine forest to desert cactus.

We stayed one night at Phantom Ranch located at the bottom of the canyon near the Colorado River. Phantom Ranch is set up like an old-time ranch with bunk houses and a kitchen/dining hall. It operates as a trading post for the hikers and campers. Our bunk house was air conditioned which was a blessing in the 100 degree heat. The heat played a major part in everyone’s experience. Once on the river there was no escape from the heat day or night except to get wet in the river or side streams which ran 45 degrees cool. There are limited wildlife in the canyon due to desert conditions. We saw some deer, big horn sheep, vultures, few birds, and lots of bats.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Boat —
A big part of this adventure was getting to know this boat, 37 feet long with 14 tourists and 4 crew. Our boat was constructed in 3 pieces of heavy aluminum frame. Each piece was hinged to the next to make a flexible frame to roll over the rapids and survive heavy use. The frame held trunks to keep all the food and equipment. Under the frame were 2 pontoons in a catamaran fashion. Riders could sit inside on the trunks or out on the pontoons. This boat was powered by a 30HP outboard engine which was used mainly to steer the craft. The river current does most of the work to carry the boat downstream.

There were a variety of boats on the river from kayaks, 4 person oar powered rubber rafts, to large motorized craft like ours. I chose the motor trip because it was faster, less work and less splashing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Much of the trip reminds me of Huckelberry Finn rafting down the Mississippi, floating with the current. When the motor was cut off, there would descend a peace over the river and passengers. However, the river descends sometimes in steps and sometimes in extended rapids. There are some 70 or more rapids of various sizes and are given a rating of 1-10 for difficulty. Going through a large rapid was like being on a short roller coaster ride and having someone randomly throw a bucket of water on you. The boat would climb the wave, perhaps 10 feet, and descend to the next wave, usually plowing into it and throwing water back on the passengers. This would happen 6-8 times on the bigger rapids. I only felt in danger once when the boat hit a large wave and I was in the front to receive a heavy push from the wave. The boat rolled easily over all the rapids, only causing lots of spray. However the boatmen told stories of boats being capsized or crashing into the canyon side .

The Boatmen —
Our 4 crew were very experienced in the out-of-doors, dedicated to the nature and ecology of the canyon, and willing to share their experience. They were variously involved in hiking, skiing, boating for many years as a life-style choice. Daily during the quiet cruises the crew would present a couple of lectures regarding canyon history, culture, geology or nature. They told many interesting stories about pioneer boatmen and their colorful antics or disasters. These boatmen (as they wish to be called) have a tight community with proud traditions and trusting relationships. They spend their lives on the river while tourists come and go.

Our pilot was truly remarkable. I have rarely met a person both charismatic and wise, both charming and capable. His job is to captain the crew, steer and maintain the boat, lead the expedition, ensure the passengers’ comforts, and most important, not run the boat into something big. He had 13 years experience on this river and one could tell that “White Lightning” was “his boat”, although he works for a company that manages many boats. But once on the river, there is no help and no turning back, everything rides on the pilot’s experience and ability. He would “hold court” daily from his command center at the stern, explaining the day’s activities, warning of upcoming rapids, and joking with others. End of day when boat was beached, he could be heard entertaining any who would stay aboard. His humor and open-management style infected the crew and passengers with a spirit of cooperation and good will.

One of the highlights of the trip was observing our pilot, realizing how much we needed him. I can imagine him navigating large ocean-going yachts for rich patrons. But then, his dedication to the river and canyon are so much a part of his charm.

The Food–
It was remarkable that no one complained about the food because in a group you usually hear something. Possibly we expected hardship and bad food; possibly we were a tolerant lot. But more likely it was the quality of the menu. It was more like a church bar-be-que than your typical backpacking fair. We had grilled chicken, fajitas, steak, hamburgers, and wurst with salads for dinner. And breakfast was eggs, french toast or pancakes. For lunch we made our own sandwiches. The crew had a load of heavy-duty cookware, tables, wash tubs, folding chairs and even a portable potty. The larger boat afforded the opportunity for greater luxury.

The Passengers —
Given the small group of 14, there was an unlikely chance of a great diversity. The price of the tour and the physical hardship clearly limits the types of people to be found on this river. We had one family of 4, a 5-person group of seniors (all friends), two father-son pairs and a solo male. They were mostly seniors and no children. We were a typical middle-class, white, educated, easy going group, uniformly liberal and ecological.

Many struggled physically with the hiking, mounting the pontoon boat, and sleeping on the ground. We all made considerable sacrifice to have an exceptionally unique wilderness experience. One lady had to be medivac’d by helicopter for health reasons. I would compare it to a trip down the Amazon or Nile, or a safari in Africa or Alaska. One had to reckon with sleeping on the ground, fine river sand in everything, limited clear water, no showers, hot weather and lots of sun. The trip price was $2100 per person plus tips, and the cost of transportation to/from the staging areas, hotel stays before/after the tour, etc.

On the plus side was the unique opportunity to be out of contact with civilization, participating in a group exploration of beautiful landscapes, working as a team to survive in the wild, and learning a lot of history and natural lore. The canyon provided so may remarkable sights that they became routine. Rafting the canyon is a perfect opportunity to study geology or astronomy. Every geological era is represented in the rock strata, and there is different rock everywhere. The night sky was unobstructed by lights or pollution. I must have taken 500 photos as there is no way to determine if one view is better than the next. Highlights for me were the starry sky, swimming in several streams and waterfalls, confronting a close range the towering walls or rock, participating in a more ancient and primitive life, and observing the organization of a boating expedition.

Many said they would return or wished they had done this trip when younger. For me it was worth the time and effort but the ultimate impact may be yet to discover. I must review my slides.

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Evolution and Art

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The basic principle of evolution is change.  And if you’ve studied enough art history, or any history, you’ll agree that culture, politics, media, subjects , techniques and styles have constantly changed. The question is — Do these changes evidence a deeper meaning or direction for mankind?

The second principle of evolution is that change results from interaction with living conditions. And again, art history shows that social conditions and technical discoveries allowed for innovations in art, i.e. art evolved in response to new conditions. Or was it the other way round?  Perhaps, art itself is the driving force behind social change.

The third principle is that changes originate as mistakes or spontaneous deviations from the norm.  And so leading artists experienced changes in perception and awareness which in turn emerged as new aesthetic trends. Even so these pathfinders were the product of their cultural millew.   The forth principle is that interaction between environment and individual creates new forms. Thus it’s both society and the artist influencing each other. It’s both the chicken and the egg.  We must abandon duality in order to embrace the truth.
My original question is open for debate. Is evolution going in some direction of just meandering around. Is there a higher principle or spirit working in history? From the earliest stick figures, to photographic accuracy, to unrecognizable abstractions, one can track a progression in art.  If we regard today’s modern abstractions as the culmination of art’s development, I’m tempted to say that this evolution has reached an end or blind alley. Or one might say that we’ve arrived at the essence and ultimate meaning of visual expression. Meanwhile, painted art has been pushed aside by new forms like photography, film, and electronic media.

I’m not ready to announce the end of art itself because it morphs into new creative forms. But I suggest that for painting, evolution has ended.  Creativity must take place on a smaller scale or jump to new media.  As for the local artist, we may examine our own evolution and attempt to locate it’s place in the grand scope of art history.  We may innovate within our talents and vision.  It is a rare artist who does not find a niche and keep plugging away at comfortable forms.  After all, we wish to please ourselves, and that aesthetic often stays close to home base.

However, does not the Muse call each of us in a special way?  Are we not inspired to take chances, make mistakes, try out new techniques, apprehend new visions?  And in this creative moment, do we not merge with the flow of evolution and feel one with the past masters?  If we wish to commune in this enlightenment, we must interact with new environments and venture into unknown territory. Many people in their youth do exactly this.  They change jobs or apartments, travel, change partners, meet new friends, win some, lose some.  I remember some of these changes were disturbing, but looking back, they were a necessary part of a personal growth or evolution.

“The essence of life is to be found in the frustrations of the established order.” John Gardner in “Grendel”

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