Non-artists don’t think of artists as researchers. But they are. An idea arrives, unbidden. It’s unexpected, brilliant, a gift. As soon as the artist takes the idea from the mind to clay or to a sewing machine or dance floor or to the page, something else arrives. It is accompanied by its most intimate other – a problem.
While always dreaming of perfection, the artist is used to problems. That’s the earthly material at hand. So there it is, a problem, and the artist, still saturated with the original idea, immediately answers it. Which in turn sparks another challenge. Now there is a dialog. On the heels of that next brilliant idea comes another perplexing set of conditions. The artist is now looking, fixing, tumbling with curiosity, play and fervor of the chase. Each inquiry quickens a new turn. He’s so deeply immersed in research that he has completely forgotten what the original impulse might have been.
Who knows how Todd Oldham, the sumptuously imaginative fashion designer, began his idea. But somehow he ended up with a dress that doubles as Aladdin’s flying carpet.
Todd Oldham’s “All of Everything” retrospective shows at the RISD Museum, Providence, RI, through September 11, 2016.
What a delightful meditation on the creative process seen from the inside. it says important things about the logic of creation and says them with brio as if drawing on the same excitement it is assuming at the source of creativity. I would love to see Jill write about that!
Thank you, Tom. I’ve always been fascinated with the mystery of the creative process. An artist-friend was talking last night about the collaborative work she did for a scientific lab – imagine, someone at the lab was smart enough to hire an artist to benefit high-level scientists! No doubt it benefitted her as well.