Friday, November 21, 2008

Science Corner: Therapy through Creativity

A Portrait of the Artist as a Nutcase
A Perspective on the Biological Basis of Aesthetic Preferences from Neuropsychological Study of Artistic Creativity......Visual art, venerated and yet notorious for its mysterious creative beauty, has always been a nebulous topic for empirical study. Some pieces are beautiful, some hideous, but why? Where do our preferences for the aesthetic come from? Popular wisdom holds that we learn aesthetic preferences from our parents, our peers, and our surrounding culture. Some have even asserted that training is necessary to acquire aesthetic preferences (Lakoff & Scherr, 1984, as cited by Etcoff, 1999). Despite such popular assertions and beliefs, several recent studies contain evidence for the biological basis of some aesthetic preferences in visual art. Preferences for shape, symmetry, spatial orientation, and even level of abstraction and realism are being related to physiological attributes such as handedness, gender, right and left hemisphere perceptual biases and abilities. While the bulk of this literature has previously been reviewed, (Strachan, 1999), the relationship between biology and aesthetic preferences remains a dubious one in the scientific community.
our mothers and the origins or our aesthetic judgement.....
Like Frederic Leighton, John Ruskin believed in the nobility of high art and its ethical implications. This nobility derives from the work of art's ideal beauty and its abililty to elevate the viewer. Beauty, attained through the detailed examination of nature, signifies the external quality of an object/person and thus, "typical beauty", and the fulfillment of function and thus, "vital beauty". Proportion is the root of any beautiful form, and the perfected fully proportioned form translates the notion of the Beautiful to the viewer. Ruskin states, "Painting, with all its technicalities, difficulties, and particular ends, is nothing but a noble and expressive language, invaluable as the vehicle of thought, but by itself nothing."(20)
Alland, A. 1977. The Artistic Animal: An Inquiry into the Biological Roots of Art,,,,,,"Art communicates experience that has no direct linguistic signs in spoken language." -- Alexander Alland
Bibliography of books on art and science
Creativity, Evolution and Mental Illnesses--Mental representations, or memes, transform the space in which they evolve. Their survival is dependent on the survival of the individuals and the groups hosting them. Creativity - the production of new and useful ideas - isclosely linked to the social dynamics of the individuals expressing creative ideas: without social confrontationnew memes cannot become diffuse. Creative individuals tend to be emotionally unstable, and many are affectedby mental disorders. Studies on the link between creativity and mental illnesses show that it is exactly thecharacteristics of the mental disorder which also confer some advantage on afflicted individuals. Theseadvantages extend to the groups to which the creative, mentally ill individuals belong. The group comprising themost creative personalities will therefore acquire an adaptive advantage which maintains the integrity of thegroup as a whole, in spite of the vulnerability of the individual
Creativity and Irrational Forces: Eccentric Artists and Mad Scientists
Laura Gosselink
"Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence--whether much that is glorious--whether all that is profound--does not spring from disease of thought--from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night"- Edgar Allen Poe
"Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein
Is creative genius somehow woven together with "madness"? According to the dictionary, "to create" is "to bring into being or form out of nothing." Such a powerful, mysterious, and seemingly impossible act must surely be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. No wonder creativity has for so long been "explained" as the expression of an irrational, intuitive psychic "underground" teaming with forces (perhaps divine) that are unknown and unknowable (at least to the "sane," rational mind). The ancient Greeks believed creative inspiration was achieved through altered states of mind such as "divine madness."
The innocent eye: A child's "definition" of artAccording to Wollheim, children do not make art. They make pictures, drawings, paintings, collages. They are perhaps too young to be concerned with the creation of art. Yet they seem to have their own, clear "definition" of a work of art. Some years ago, when Leah was 9 years old, I was reading Wollheim's Painting as an Art. Leah looked at the picture on the cover and asked, "What is that?" "It's a work of art," I said. She started to laugh and said, "That's not a work of art, it's a painting!" "A painting is a work of art," I said. She did not agree. I had noticed this before with young children. They know perfectly well what a work of art is: In the realm of artefacts and images there are paintings, drawings, cartoons, and statues, statuettes and figurines in stone, porcelan and bronze, and works of art. "Works of art" are also made with paint or bronze or whatever, but a "work of art" is something (mostly it's 3-D and quite often it possesses a kind of beauty) which cannot be explained in utilitarian terms and which bears no relation to the visible world. It's something that's just there, made to be placed in public space or in a museum garden. It doesn't represent a little mermaid or a piglet or the queen on her horse. It simply is a "work of art".

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