The sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, lived most of his sculptor life in a Paris apartment/studio, without hot water or a bathroom. Brother Diego was his foundry assistant. Giacometti chain-smoked 4 packs per day, and wore the same grey, herring bone suit and tie, 24 hours a day. He would buy a new one – same color, same style – once a year. He went to restaurants for his meals, and bistros and clubs in the evenings for drinks and conversation, and brothels now and then. He was very upset when prostitution became illegal. He would work in his studio all night, and then sleep most of the day. He married late, reluctantly and strangely, and enjoyed mistresses. He had no children.
To Giacometti, life was magical. He saw wonder in everything, believed in the significance of his feelings, and the possibilities of the mysterious. Attracted to the surrealists, at first he painted and sculpted from the psychological, and the philosophical and the political. He thought one should ride Nietszche’s “wild horse” – the unconscious – to find the creative path. In time, he found that it really didn’t take him anywhere. Existential angst was not political, or philosophical, wasn’t anything new in human history and wasn’t artistic. He broke ranks with the surrealists. Andre Breton wanted a discussion.
Giacometti replied: “that won’t be necessary”.
He set out “to represent what I see”. What he meant was what his mind sees, not what his eyes see.
For years he tried and failed. Constantly studying people on the street, and in conversations, he was drawn to misfit and histrionic types, people who played out their being, up front, unrehearsed. He would pose and study his models for hours and days on end. All night he would attempt sculpture, only to destroy it in the morning, unsatisfied.
His friends and family lost confidence. He seemed more and more just an eccentric.
At times, having looked so long and so hard, he would feel an entranced loss of the thoughts and identifications of just what he was seeing. The work would take control.
“he found to his amazement, and to his consternation, that the sculpture grew smaller and smaller. The smaller it grew, the more troubled it became, yet he could not keep if from shrinking. The sculpture itself seemed to determine in advance its appropriate size, would accept no alternative and compelled the sculptor to comply.”
Training builds creative skill. Practice areas of the brain become . . . swollen.
“The posterior hippocampus, the area of the brain known to be important for memory, is bigger in London cab drivers than in most people.”
Attending a play in a Parisian theatre, looking at the stage and then at the audience around him, he had this awareness that he was seeing differently, in some new way, “not like a camera“, but dimensionally, in time and space, all with a strange sense of becoming.
His work became art, great art – minimalist human likenesses, with intention in posture, movement of purpose, feeling of being
. . . what you see with your mind, not your eyes.
On December 13, 1963, Corliss Lamont hosted the 172nd anniversary of the Bill of Rights in Washington D. C., and presented the Thomas Pain Award to . . . Bob Dylan.
Mr. Lamont was the son of a wealthy banker, a graduate of Phillips Academy, Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia. He had a PhD in Philosophy. He celebrated atheism. In 1932, he visited the Soviet Union and found a very promising, enlightened society. The secret police were “courteous and efficient and good natured”. There were hungry people begging for food, but “most of these beggars are people who are too lazy to work, since every Russian can get a job if he wants to”.
“He was just a sickly kid who loved heroes” Jackie Kennedy, with Theodore White. He had a “rigid and physically distant mother”, and a domineering and demanding father – “We want winners, we don’t want losers around here.” Jack Kennedy, Barabara Leaming, pg. 61, 2006. Joseph P. Kennedy, in 1962, was worth of $500,000,000. The […]
“Across the land, turbulent air flowing from the chilly north encounters the breezes of the hot south. As the two fight it out over the plains, tornadoes are spawned. Ninety percent of the worlds tornadoes occur in North America.” The Eternal Frontier, Tim Flannery, 2001. Long before it became the first global human empire, […]