Artistry. Musicality. Theatric. Literary. I was blessed with a rich childhood exposure to such things. I guess it came with growing up in a city crossed between old school and new school traditions and beautifully sandwiched between Eastern and Western cultures. As a kid, art was as simple as a pencil sketch of Marvel superheroes; music was the daily street jamming session with friendly voices and a guitar that sung chords strummed from a rumpled early 90’s songbook. Theater was rehearsing class plays of various folklores and fairytales, while literature ranged from reading mythology to writing about the classics. Pretty well-rounded, we were. Suffice it to say, we attended an excellent school.
I critiqued a work of art in 10th grade as part of Art 101. I didn’t know much about art then apart from pencils and watercolors and Leonardo da Vinci. This experience stuck with me as it allowed me to pursue something I never thought I’d be remotely interested in. I remember my teacher’s short, mousy brown hair and squarish, pointed nose as she told me I should take more art classes to improve my technique. I didn’t even know I had any technique at that point. Anyway, for the assignment, she asked me to review the famous Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. I had heard of Dali before, and I had seen the painting somewhere. But I had no idea how to even begin a proper critique. I did my research. I did my assigned work. I got a good grade, though I don’t remember what I wrote so many years ago about this painting and this artist that persists to inspire me.
Yes. I was utterly inspired. I was completely entranced by the surrealist movement. I even dubbed myself a surrealist writer later on, writing dreamy poetry and short, blinking prose. Later in my senior year, I took up an advanced art history class for some college credit. I didn’t really delve into it, though, until I took art history again in college just for fun, part 1 and part 2. Even though I’m no expert, I can say I know what I like, and I know what I’m looking for in a piece of artwork. Through it all, surrealism stuck with me: weird, provocative, captivating, and full of thought.
I didn’t pursue art. I have a box of charcoal and lead and graphite tucked away neatly just in case I get bit by the sketchy bug. In 2007, I took a trip up north to Tampa to see a couple of friends, and on the way there, I stopped by St. Petersburg just to look around and see what the area was like. I was pleasantly surprised by the existence of a Dali Museum, so small on the outside yet so grand on the inside. Dali Museum for the Dali enthusiasts! Like me! I was ecstatic. I thought I knew how eccentric this dude was. I had no idea.
I’m not going to elaborate on the artful life of the famous Salvador Dali except for this one quick aside. With the details all blurred and such, I’ll never forget one of Dali’s radical methods to genius surreal artwork. It turned out that he used to starve himself of sleep and go on for some time without shut eye. He would hold a key in between his fingers while he kept a metal plate beneath him. As soon as he nodded off, the key would nod off onto the metal plate sounding a clang that would wake him up immediately. He claimed that this induced some sort of lucid dreaming that enabled him to heighten his cognitive awareness of his own dreams. Thus, inspiration stirred and the wonderfully odd paintings and films and sculptures surfaced.
I’m not sure what it is about this story, but it drives me into inspiration overload when it comes to being persistent about your own craft. Even though I know so well how much the brain requires the mental filtering it undergoes while asleep, I sometimes feel sleeping is wasteful especially when I’m inspired beyond contentment. I’m not trying to go about without slumber; I’m just trying to elevate my dedication to my craft of choice. I strive to be unrealistically persistent until I get there.
So if you happen to be by St. Petersburg, Florida, stop by the Dali Museum and be inspired by crazy.