Your art is not a lie, or “Yesterday’s post was my mouse’s fault, not mine”


My mouse has been double clicking erratically and confoundingly for about a week now, and other than exiting tabs unintentionally it hadn’t gotten me into too much trouble until it suddenly decided to post the stuff on my blog yesterday. Whoops!

I wasn’t even begun editing, and there were about fifty other things I wanted to say. The mouse had other ideas. It took the two raw ideas I had copy and pasted into the text and decided that was enough. I was shocked at the mechanical impertinence. How dare my mouse post something without my permission? Something with my name on it, something I had no intention of letting go of without radical and drastic overhaul?

But then the irony of it struck me. The two quotes themselves were lined up to talk about the inadequacy of intention for at least some of our creative expression, and how the tools of our process sometimes inform the essence of what gets ‘published’. How fortuitous that my mouse cooperated enough to let at least those ideas come to light!

Still, I felt bad for all the folks who get my posts via subscription. It must have seemed weird, even among the weirdness of my usual ravings. There are no take backs once its sent, and the explanation I later edited back in would never be seen by these recipients unless they came to the site itself. My apologies to you all for that confusion!

So what was I planning on talking about? The general theme I had been mulling had to do with the difference between expression as something that rides on the surface, that could have been different, that can be true or false, that can lie, and manifestation, which reflects something deeper and more permanent, more essential.

I’m not sure I have the right words for this discussion (yet), but it seemed worth talking about. The idea I had in mind was along the lines of whether helping a friend expresses our friendship or whether it manifests it. Helping seems to actually be what it means to be a friend. This is what friends do. The actions are not symbolic of something other but are in fact the thing itself. You manifest your friendship by doing this and that. Do you see what I’m getting at?

(Note, I am not saying that it is either/or, but that there is a difference worth noting. It seems that some things we express can count as manifestations, but that manifestations are more limited than expression by the constraints of its fundamental nature. We can ‘express’ things besides the truth, for instance, but there isn’t as much leeway in what we can manifest truly. And THAT was the reason I titled my previous post “Your art is a lie”…..)

Now think about that in terms of our creative expression. Is our art a manifestation, or is it simply an expression? In what cases is it one and in what is it the other?

Let me close with something I also read yesterday that may shed some light on what I am thinking. Its from a review of the new film about David Foster Wallace, and if you have the time you should read the whole thing. This is one of the parts I was struck by:

4. One thing that hit me as we watched the film was just how ordinary it all was: the movie, the treatment of the characters, the airport scenes, the car rental lots, the appetites temporarily satisfied with junk food, the outbursts and mumblings…. There is a scene in which Lipsky practically begs Wallace to admit he’s brilliant, and Wallace rebuffs him. Wallace values his “regular-guyness” not as an affectation but as a survival tactic, and as a sincere reality. This is a reality (and not just of being a writer) that we are reticent to admit or openly embrace: no one escapes the ordinariness of everyday life; no one escapes being regular. No one. Sure, there are moments (at widely different scales) of excitement, passion, genius, violence, and rage…there are inequities and injustices that are horrible and that we (hopefully) work to address or redress…. But these are all set against a profoundly mundane backdrop—really the overwhelming foreground—of ordinary life. Wallace’s writings wiggle into the ordinary, the regular, even when his topics occasionally appear charged or esoteric at first blush. But, too, writing is ordinary. It’s just a life, just a form of living life.


Things to consider, perhaps……

Peace all!

Happy potting!

Make beauty real!




About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
This entry was posted in Art, Creativity, Imagination, metacognition, Pottery. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your art is not a lie, or “Yesterday’s post was my mouse’s fault, not mine”

  1. Stephen DeSteabler in an interview:

    “So I was working away on this bird, a big sculpture, about a yard across. Pete finally came over and looked down at this sculpture. He said, “What is that, a turkey?” [laughs] I found it pretty funny. My ego wasn’t hurt at all. Then I tried making a sculpture around a wooden armature inspired by John Mason’s work. I had my armature and I’d built slabs of clay about three quarters of an inch thick and about two feet by two feet. I had this mental picture of what this slab was going to do on this column of clay, but when it actually hit the column everything went wrong. You get pissed, and I was about ready to rip it off, but before I could do that, I saw what was there. What was there was this landscape! An undulation of clay that you cannot finesse. The only way you could make it happen is through an event-like the failing clay sliding down the column. So I think that’s when I really discovered landscape. I would ponder this over the years. Traditional landscape painting has been around since day one-the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Assyrians. Everyone from that level of culture had landscape paintings. But what about landscape sculpture? I still defy anyone to come up with a landscape tradition in sculpture!


    In fact my first big commission was a wall about eighteen feet long and about nine feet high for Salt Lake City. I just had room on my studio floor to do this. I made special easels that were about eight feet square. I had them balanced in such a way that I could get behind them and tip the clay slabs over onto the matrix on the floor, which was the substructure of the clay. I got some incredible events in the clay. Just incredible!

    RW: The eight foot square piece would fall?

    SDeS: Right. Slam! Onto the matrix, which was another colored clay, a continuous slab with ribs that intercepted the eight by eight slabs. This was done in several sections. That became the basic form. For the most part I didn’t do any hand forming.

    Then the next level of forming came from covering the clay on the floor entirely with paper or these murky plastic bags so I couldn’t see what was underneath. I’d take my shoes off, and whatever else I had on, and I’d jump around on the clay, throw my body onto it. No peeking! All or nothing! Then I’d peel the paper and plastic away and see what I got. For the most part, I couldn’t even touch them again they were so fantastic! [laughs]

    Then, in the next year or two, I was doing this reclining figure, and the pelvic area was a kind of critical part of the sculpture. I climbed up on the mezzanine of the studio and I jumped, feet first, onto the clay in progress. It turned into this incredible pelvic area. What made me think of that at all is this little balcony in my studio here [points]. Actually, I only tried jumping from that one once. I guess I’d gotten just enough older to realize this is risky business”

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