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Just Getting Revved Up
Live radio is a daily adventure, as any regular listener can attest. But even pre-recorded shows — like yesterday's, about native art — can present technical challenges. Our digital recorder conked out in the middle of the session last week, right when the painter James Lavadour was answering a question about whether he feels pigeon-holed as a Native American artist. He wasn't exactly answering the question, but his tangent was perhaps more interesting, anyway. You can listen to what he said (mp3) before the recording went dead. Here's a taste:
I'm just getting into the prime of my creative life at 57. I'm just getting revved up.
This reminded me of a recent Malcom Gladwell review of the book Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity. As Gladwell writes:
Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we're inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.
Later in the essay, and closer to yesterday's show, Gladwell compares Pablo Picasso — a famously early bloomer — with Paul Cézanne, whose work from his mid-60s is most valued by critics and collectors:
The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
I called Lavadour today to ask about his late bloom. "I've had all kinds of theories about it," he told me:
I feel like it's just the unfolding of one's life. The maturing of your processes. Being able to concentrate on what I need to be able to do now.
And this didn't just happen at the age of 57. I think at 50 I felt an explosion of energy — like being shot out of a bow. I'd had normally cycles in the past, of up and down. But this kept accelerating. This kept going. This was a major cycle for me. I think this is part of the organic process of maturing.
I had two main methods in the past. One was a flowing landscape and the other was an abstracted architecture. A few years ago they intersected, and what I thought were polarities intersected, and it resulted in a huge explosion of possibilities for me. Almost like a scientific experiment, with permutations.
One thing I realize is that this thing has a trajectory to it. It was expanding, expanding, expanding. And now it's contracting. Now the energies are seeming to compound, layer upon layer.
Here's "Little Bird," one of Lavadour's recent paintings:
You can see more of his work here.