|Imran Quereshi's roof garden installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art|
Feeding your head, the painter Jim Mullen used to call it back when we were in college together. By "it" I mean the crucial down time all artists need. It's not a good idea to spend all your spare time in a room alone making art. Whether you're a writer, a painter, an actor, a guitar player, a crucial part of the process is feeding your head: reading, seeing art, being in the world. Though the phrase has echoes of Jefferson Airplane's song White Rabbit and the sixties drug culture, I'm using it here the way Jim was using it back then--to describe those moments of down time that stimulate the artist, that give him or her ideas, refilling the fuel tank.
For me, the best way to feed my head is to wander around a city--preferably Manhattan, where art can be found in almost any direction, and where in the course of walking on almost any block you can hear overhear conversations in seven different languages. The other best way is going to a club to hear live music--an exuberant act of creation that almost always makes me want to write. And the third best way is to read and reread the classic novels that have so much to teach any writer.
My novel Catherine grew out of the place on the Venn diagram where my three favorite kinds of head-feeding overlap: it's a retelling of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, about the star-crossed passion between an aspiring punk rocker and a nightclub owner's beautiful but spoiled daughter. And it's set in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Last weekend Andre and I revisited New York City in an effort to fill up both our tanks. We visited museums and galleries, saw plays and just wandered the streets taking pictures. You never know where the next idea will come from, but I came home feeling desperate to do some more writing--a definite sign that my head has just had an excellent meal.
For evidence that Jim (a.k.a. James) Mullen knows a thing or two about making art, check out one of his gorgeous paintings. You can see more at his web page.
|Quadro #13 by James Mullen|