02 December 2009

[art] A Master's Tools, Mystical Powers Imbued?

2268.While I was reading the New York Times article that inspired (and was linked to) by the last post, I remembered a bit I read in another book, and the similarities in the human attitudes in the two related bits struck me with maybe a not-too-odd congruence, given that Human peoples love to relate to the cosmos on a spiritual level as they do (I say with a mixture of odd delight and weariness).

In it, the rare-book dealer describes the emotion that came over him when seeing the humble Olivetti Lettra 32:

Glenn Horowitz, a rare-book dealer who is handling the auction for Mr. McCarthy, said: “When I grasped that some of the most complex, almost otherworldly fiction of the postwar era was composed on such a simple, functional, frail-looking machine, it conferred a sort of talismanic quality to Cormac’s typewriter. It’s as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife.”

While the metaphoric image of the Four Presidence carved by MacGyver will now forever stick, the real point is the mere knowledge that a master's tools had some sort of creative essence transferred into it seems to be something many, both aspiring artists and those who never aspire to any art, seem to share. In his excellent how-to-draw book, Drawing From Within, former MAD Magazine editor Nick Meglin relates the following:

…When my instructions in class were still met with moans and groans, I would introduce the work of Frank Frazetta, a popular artist and close friend. Frank, Angelo Torres and I were part of a small group of young men who played ball and hung around together in Brooklyn. We shared drawing interests and occasionally attended life drawing sketch classes at the Brooklyn Museum and the Art Students League.

Frazetta had little formal art education, but he was a "natural" from the very start. Invariably, someone in our classroom would approach Frank during the break, and ask about his drawing materials. Some of them actually attempted to buy his "miraculous media" with which he had captured the living form so beautifully and effortlessly. Frazetta never understood why anyone would want to buy his chewed-up pencil stubs!

"They don't even have erasers!" he said incredulously.

How absurd it was to think that it was the drawing instrument and not the artist's hand behind it that was responsible for his remarkable drawings.
It may or may not be stronger within the actual community of artists, such as they are, than the general public at large. As the rare-book dealer found an almost-supernatual respect for Cormac McCarthy's typewriter, the stories about this tendency that really seem to stick with me are when an artist – say, a printmaker or engraver – get to work with authentic tools that a well-known master. They treat them with a reverence and respect usually I see in situations like that of a Catholic Mass, when the pastor is handling the regalia. Utmost humility.

Art comes from the heart, the mind, and whatever you consider a soul; if you believe in a Creator, you are creating kind of in his/her/its image; maybe its naturally human to invoke a sort of animism in the tools the artist uses.

I've heard we humans are "wired" that way.

We humans is funny peoples.

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