Let’s pause and reflect on some of the comments our guest artists have shared in response to the question, “WHY CREATE?” The remarks have ranged from:
Seeking identity… A pre-determined destiny… Letting the sub-conscience have a voice… Letting the creative process distract her from angst… An artist has a responsibility to use her talent to reflect the times and situation… Find out about herself and how the world works… Using performance art as a platform to express political and philosophical ideas that can’t be said or read.
I hope you, the reader, have found these responses as thoughtful and inspiring as I.
My next contributor is Celeste Roberge who has been working as an artist for about forty years. Her creativity evolved through figurative sculpture and drawings to materials in the natural world. To call her just a sculptor would be equivocal. For Celeste, the answer to WHY CREATE lies in the process that drives her creativity and the process “…compels [her] to create.” You will be fascinated by her thoughtful and profound comments that explain what that process is, and what and why the choice of materials she uses.
If you go looking for the School of Athens in Greece, you find that it is an empty space, a geographic location that once was a natural architectural setting created by the shade of a grove of oak trees. While traveling in Iceland more than a decade ago with two of my colleagues, I was delighted to be part of a New School of Athens in the form of our circle of three tents, our private spaces for sleeping, dreaming, and art making.
At night, in the light of the midnight sun, exhausted after a day of exploring the volcanic landscape, we established a practice of Bob reading to us from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, a novel set in Iceland at Snaefellsjokull. On the first night of reading, we did not get far because George and I constantly interrupted Bob with exclamations, questions, requests to reread a sentence or a phrase, disbelief and demands to actually see the page as proof because some of the texts were so outrageous we thought that he might be making it all up on the spot. In the book, there were handwritten, indecipherable “runes” and we passed those around for closer inspection. We oohed and aahed about the runes, a turn of phrase, or a particularly good slam at the nature of the professor because the lead character, Liddinbrock, was a professor at a university in Germany, and all three of us were professors at the University of Florida. We each assigned ourselves to one of the three main characters in the book and developed a contentious relationship with that fictitious person, criticizing and applauding them alternately.
What struck me after the first night’s reading was that this messy process of questioning, doubting, inquiring is really what compels me to create. I create because I want to learn through experience. I want to test the boundaries of materials, the means of expression through those materials, and the potential of matter to embody meaning. Through art I want to learn something about the nature of life. Simultaneously, I am in a constant struggle with the opposite thought “Why make anything if everything is already there in nature and so much more powerful in its forms than anything I could possibly conceive and materialize in the studio?”
Eight years ago my fascination shifted slowly from vulcanism and geology to collecting and working with macroalgae. Algae lies at the origins of life itself and I sense this through its substance. Algae resists my feeble attempts to manipulate it and make it into something else. Like the volcano, it is pure energy, it is pure life, and that is why I continue studying it and exploring its properties. I think I am engaged in an early form of material science.
Here is a part of a “pseudo” poem I wrote in 2002 that also addresses the question Why Create?
Celeste Roberge was born in Maine and received her art education at the Maine College of Art, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is Professor Emerita, after twenty-two years as Head of Sculpture, at the School of Art + Art History, College of the Arts, University of Florida. She maintains a studio in Portland, Maine.
Please visit her website www.celesteroberge.com