Archived Story

Where do our imagination and creativity go as we age?

Published 5:49pm Saturday, January 19, 2013

Column: Art is…, by Bev Jackson Cotter

Some artists do crazy things. But most of the artistic people I know are pretty normal — whatever that is.

We often remember famous people in history by the unusual things we do, for example: George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. And, artists are no exception. Van Gogh is remembered for cutting off a part of his ear to express his grief over losing a girlfriend. Gauguin left his family and traveled to a South Sea island to paint Polynesian women. Georgia O’Keefe painted some pretty ugly buffalo skulls in her beautiful desert scenes. And, recently I read about one of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions that made me wonder at his imagination. He designed a sand, water and gear alarm that woke him up in the morning by bouncing his legs in the air.

Bev Jackson Cotter

There have been thousands, maybe millions, of people in history who call themselves artists, and actually I believe that every one of us is an artist, whether we choose to use that word in a description of ourselves or not.

My Thorndike-Barnhart dictionary says an artist is, “1. person who paints pictures. 2. person who is skilled in any of the fine arts, such as sculpture, music or literature. 3. person who does work with skill and good taste.” I like the third explanation.

It also states that imagination is, “1. the power of forming pictures in the mind of things not present to the senses. 2. ability to create new things or ideas or to combine old ones in new forms. 3. creation of the mind; fancy.” I like all of these definitions.

The person who designed the buttons on your shirt, the logo on your favorite bottle of wine and the car you are driving is an artist. And so are you.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with third- through eighth-graders in a creative writing class. When I asked them if they were artists, a few tentatively raised their hands, yet when I asked them to write adventure stories, real or imagined, their worlds opened up to dancing pickle jars and elephants squashing rocking chairs.

What happens to us as we grow up? Where does that silly creative imagination go? Between classes as I wandered the halls of Southwest State University, I thoroughly enjoyed the abstract art on display. The 6-foot square canvas with the spilled paint design and 10-foot long canvas with calligraphic style writing etched in blue paint would have made no sense to a realist, but both of these huge paintings helped to expand the creative atmosphere I needed for my class.

Do our creative ideas stay with us as long as we are in school and then fade away when we enter the real world? I hope not. As we grow older, do we become more self-conscious and worried about what people might say about our artistic efforts? Maybe. Do we allow television experts or computer games to bombard us with entertainment and then forget our own imaginations. Maybe.

Minnesota is well-known throughout the nation for its cultural programs, and our southern Minnesota area is no exception. The upcoming exhibit at the Albert Lea Art Center provides us with the opportunity to share creativity. The annual all member show gives everyone a chance to display their talents, not as a Van Gogh or a da Vinci, but as a person who never suffered that creative urge, one who grew up and let the creativity inside grow with them.

Bev Jackson Cotter is member of the Albert Lea Art Center where the annual all member show will be on display Feb. 10 through March 15. The open house is from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 10. Albert Lea artists will also be displaying their work at the Austin Art Center at Austin’s Oak Park Mall from Jan. 30 through Feb. 24. That open house is from 1 to 4 p.m. March 3. For more information, call 373-5665.