VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

LACMA & Bender

This past weekend, the class went to LACMA to look at, among other things, the two Joseph Cornell boxes; process paintings by Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, and others; and to explore whatever else caught the eyes of students working to integrate image and text in collaborations. Students who hung around Dan got to hear him wax on the paintings in the Picasso room and one of his favorite paintings in all of LACMA, "Nude on a Chair" by Edouard Vuillard. Students were also implored to see Chris Burden's "Metropolis II," his sons' favorite thing at the museum. At any museum, actually.

We also had a visit from the writer Aimee Bender, who sat with us on the lawn across from Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass" and about her writing practice. Pre-parenthood, she set aside two-and-a-half hours, six mornings a week to work. She said she would turn off her Internet access, turn off her phone, and show up at her desk and see what would come. She downplayed inspiration and expectation, telling us that you need to let your mind go dull, to be bored, so that you can then take risks and make something, anything, in the time you've set for yourself. Most (all?) of her strangest, most satisfying fiction has come from this process. Since she's had children, she takes what time she can get, even if it's ten minutes every evening, to get some writing done. The point is to show up, to make stuff and not to worry about its importance or how good it is. She shared with us this passage from Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird:
E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.
And then she took student questions. It was gracious for her to join us, in the brief time she had, and students were encouraged and make time to let themselves be bored in the service of their work.

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