When people talk about art, they tend toward a specific type of question. Who was the first to play a tune? Who owns a specific style? Who can judge when borrowing crosses the line? Those are questions for a political, technological world. In my mind, debates about black versus white — whether a guy can make $100 a year or $1 million a year from his art — are just dead ends. And technology, as Aldous Huxley said, is just a faster way of doing ignorant things.
Technology is no savior. We can eat, sleep, look at screens, make money — all aspects of our physical existence — but that doesn’t mean anything. Art is the exact opposite. It’s infinite, and without it, the world wouldn’t exist as it does. It represents the immaterial soul: intuition, that which we feel in our hearts. Art matters today more than ever because it outlives the contentious political veneer that is cast over everything.
In art, we can find a humbling sort of wisdom. We see themes and ideas repeat over many lifetimes. Those ideas don’t belong to any one person, and as they evolve, disappear and reappear, they remind us that regardless of what’s happening now, our lives on this earth will always be part of something bigger. Any astronomer can tell you that what we know about the universe makes up a fraction of what there is to be discovered. Art, in the same way, both inspires us to go out and find something new and highlights what we don’t know.
Music is slightly removed from this, but it’s similar. There’s an axiom that says there is no such thing as “original” music. After what we could consider to be the first sound, from a spiritual perspective — “om” to some, “amen” to others — it’s all the same. Musicians borrow different parts and make them their own, but there’s nothing really new, nothing that hasn’t been done before. Claude Debussy and Johann Sebastian Bach may sound different, but what they did was all there already, in a sense.
When I was young, growing up in Harlem, I heard Fats Waller perform. His playing struck me, and I realized that jazz would be my path in this life. Jazz being the great interpretive music that it is, of course, I didn’t have to sound like Waller. But regardless of who I sounded like, the difference between us would never be more than surface-level, because behind one guy’s personal style is something else.
In jazz, we don’t consciously borrow in the same way that other artists might. The beauty of improvisation is that it lets you do anything. I don’t know what I’m going to play — that’s where intuition, and art, comes in.
If I want to improvise during “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” for example, first I memorize it. That’s because when I’m performing onstage, I want to let my mind be completely free. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is there, and I can come back to it if I want, but what I’m creating is greater than the sum of the parts — technical ability, notes, themes — I’ve collected along the way. The song is in the back of my brain where many other things are stored, and in that way, it becomes just another item that I can call upon when I’m playing. The spirit of art shines through in a performance when I stop thinking — when I let the music play itself, not just the one song that I’ve memorized, but all of the songs and experiences I have in my mind. And as things come to me, unplanned, I surprise even myself.
I believe in reincarnation, which means that a person playing music has got a lot of things in his mind that he’s heard already. He puts them together and that comes out in his style. So you might recognize Louis Armstrong’s style, but it’s still derivative of every kind of music that exists. Any experiences that he’s had, or things that he’s played, he takes and folds into himself, and they become something new. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane — their styles are ultimately made up of many lives, spanning back to that first sound. And that material is there for all musicians and artists to access. It’s an accumulation of wisdom, the context art gives us that puts life into perspective.
When I go to the museum and I look at a piece of art, I’m transported. I don’t know how, or where, but I know that it’s not a part of the material world. It’s beyond modern culture’s political, technological soul. We’re not here to live forever. Humans and materialism die. But there’s no dying in art.
As told to Ian Carlino.
Next in the series: A short tale by Mieko Kawakami.
Sonny Rollins is a Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the 2010 National Medal of Arts.
Now in print: “Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,” and “The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments,” with essays from the series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vancouver museums and art galleries start reopening next week – Vancouver Sun
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The VAG will have security guards and volunteers to monitor visitors.
“If there’s a bit of a jam happening, that’s where our volunteers and guards will maybe ask people to move along, and maybe go to another floor,” said Augatis.
Staff at both institutions will be wearing masks in public areas, and it is “highly recommended” that visitors wear masks as well. But is not mandatory.
The Maritime Museum will reopen with a new show, On The Shore, featuring 44 paintings of the B.C. coast from the Bill and Mary Everett Collection, including two by works by Emily Carr and one by E.J. Hughes.
The VAG has a new exhibition culled from works in its collection, The Tin Man Was a Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Power. It was supposed to open in March but was delayed, as was another a new video and photographic installation, Matilda Aslizadeh’s Moly and Kassandra.
The VAG’s big summer show, Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia, is being installed and will be opening July 18.
The Maritime Museum will be opening Thursday through Sunday, while the VAG will be open seven days a week.
“We would love to see the numbers come back to the museum, but we also anticipate that for the first few days or even weeks it might be a bit difficult,” said Schokkenbroek.
“People will be apprehensive, people will be anxious, maybe reluctant, and wait and see how things are being done.”
Vancouver marathoner inspires community through Strava art – CityNews Vancouver
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver-based runner and coach Tony Tomsich has found a way to keep running interesting during the coronavirus pandemic—Strava art.
After fulfilling a lifelong dream of running in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials earlier this spring, the Alaska native has been mapping his Sunday routes into complex works of art. Tomsich runs the routes turn-by-turn with his GPS watch and posts them to the Strava—a social media platform for athletes.
“It’s always kind of been on my radar,” Tomsich says of the idea. After years of training to qualify for the marathon trials, he didn’t have a big plan going forward.
“As the pandemic hit, it became clear that running was going to look a bit different,” adds Tomsich. “We were going to have to do this by ourselves and so forth. I definitely looked at different ways to enjoy the sport.”
Tomsich attempted an Easter bunny on Sunday, April 12th, and said his Strava feed exploded with comments after the run.
“I was just floored by the response that I got,” he says. “People absolutely loved it.”
Tomsich knew he had to keep going.
He has since drawn a boat sailing by a lighthouse, a thunderbird at UBC (the university’s mascot), and an orca. Tomsich wished people a happy Mother’s Day with a 25-kilometre-long vase of flowers.
However, the most difficult drawing was a finish line, complete with two triumphant stick-runners, which he says was meant to inspire people even as official spring races were cancelled.
“It is a way to engage and to get people excited and share what is possible when we can’t have races right now or can’t have big group gatherings.”
Tomsich uses Strava’s “Route Builder” function to map out the run. His wife, Kate, has been following him on her bike and posting Instagram video updates to build suspense around what the picture will be. Tomsich’s drawings vary from 24km to 35km, a typical Sunday run for an avid marathon.
“I asked my wife Kate to join,” he says. “It’s our time to spend together to disconnect and just be out.”
Tomsich coaches with Mile2Marathon, a running group founded by Canadian Olympian Dylan Wykes to help beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners improve their race times while engaging in the social aspects of the running.
Mile2Marathon’s motto is #bettertogether and while many of its athletes are disappointed that they can’t run in groups, Tomsich hopes to inspire runners to keep going.
“I think the bigger message that I want to be able to portray to people with all this is that if you can identify what it is that you’re passionate about or what you love, there’s always ways to share that with other people.”
New West students recreate famous works of art using their toys, household items – CTV News
A New Westminster elementary school teacher is asking her students to tap into their inner Renoirs and Emily Carrs—but instead of paint and brushes, their materials include stuffed animals, Lego and dolls.
Sara Fox, a Grade 3 and 4 Montesorri teacher at Connaught Heights Elementary School, has assigned her students to recreate famous works of art using their toys.
Fox was forced to take her instruction online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but her students’ regular art teacher was not able to continue their lessons as they’d been asked to instruct the children of essential workers. So Fox tapped into her own creativity to keep the instruction going, assigning her students to use their imaginations to put their own spins on classic works of art.
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper was reimagined by Fox’s student Audrey, who replaced the glasses of wine, plates and apostles in the original with plastic cupcakes, bananas and chubby stuffed animals, including a rotund raccoon and giraffe. She titled her creation, The Squishmallow Supper.
Student Angelica recreated the iconic 1930 Grant Wood painting American Gothic using purple and grey stuffed animals. In her version, which she named Stuffie Gothic, a fork replaced the ubiquitous pitchfork from the original.
In Kai’s version of Dogs Playing Poker, the poker chips from the original painting were replaced with potato chips, and the dogs playing cards around the table are plush. Bottles of mini-yogurts stand in place of beer and whiskey, and a clock on the wall hangs in the same place as the grandfather clock from the original.
To see more of the students’ artwork, click through the images below this story.
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