A friend of mine sent me an original Broadway window card I wanted from 1974 of Ayn Rand’s play, A Penthouse Legend (The Night of January 16th), to add to my collection of original Objectivist-themed art and vintage Ayn Rand material.
The caption is perhaps the best advertisement for a play I’ve ever seen, not to mention a profound philosophical and aesthetic statement on what art ought to be:
IF YOU DON’T THINK the meaning of a play should be clear…or the issues black-and-white…or the actors clothed…or the plot so well-made that it keeps you guessing till the end…THIS PLAY IS NOT FOR YOU
You cannot imagine something like that on a play card today or in any advertisement for literature, film or theater. It’s quintessentially Rand.
I’ve already found myself looking at it and getting inspiration for some projects I’m working on, which is one of the main reasons why I collect — because everything I store and see daily helps me develop thoughts and ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Here’s Tom Hart on this, quoting Stanislavski, in his book How to Save Everything:
You must be constantly adding to your store. For this purpose you draw… principally upon your own impressions, feelings and experiences. You also acquire material from life around you, real and imaginary, from reminiscences, books, art, science, knowledge of all kinds, from journeys, museums and above all from communication with other human beings.
The card was from a private owner, and though the original frame was falling apart, it appears to be in perfect condition. I had it reframed in a custom deep frame with acid-free backing and I’m thrilled with the results. It looks great at home next to some of my other pieces which I might share here on the blog later.
A few friends I met this past weekend while I was speaking at TOS-Con have asked me for a print copy, so if there is any interest in this, let me know in the comments or send me an email.
Art is the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal . . . This does not mean that art is a substitute for philosophical thought: without a conceptual theory of ethics, an artist would not be able successfully to concretize an image of the ideal. But without the assistance of art, ethics remains in the position of theoretical engineering: art is the model-builder . . .
It’s my belief that you can tell very quickly the kind of art a person grew up consuming. If you grew up watching old western movies, I think it’s easy to tell. If you grew up consuming post modern trash, I think it’s easy to tell. If you grew up watching movies that told you that you must choose between your career and your family, that will probably affect how you view the world.
Once you know the signs to look for, you can start to become a sort of “art detective” and uncover the kind of artistic tastes people have before they tell you.
So if this all happens to be true, if art holds this power over us, what do we do? The obvious answer is to consume good art. What’s more, you should regularly consume art that reflects your highest ideals because that will get you closer to achieving those ideals.
But there’s another responsibility that is less obvious but maybe more important: make your own art. If the process of consuming art provides you with, as Ayn Rand said, a “model” for a “moral ideal,” then creating art is that and more. I know of no better way to understand yourself and how you view your place in the world than this process.
My most creative work nearly always emerges, ironically enough, from collections of the creative work of other people.
The new website design for Praxis done by Rafal Tomal began in my head from a collection of dozens of my favorite startup sites around the world. Much of my writing clearly comes from years of reading and saving passages from some of my favorite writers and thinkers.
Though the goal is to be original, I’ve learned that originality does not arise in a vacuum. You cannot simply “will yourself” into creativity in the moment. So what do we do in the absence of creative inspiration? Collect.
Most of the best artists and the best creators are collectors and curators of work from other people. Montaigne famously surrounded himself with quotes from the classics in his tower while he wrote. Many of America’s founders kept commonplace books filled with passages from literature they read. Renaissance painters studied the works of their “competitors” as if they were their own, often repainting them entirely. Today, a startup marketer might keep a swipe file of his favorite marketing emails and develop new and better emails from them.
I’m often asked how to become a better writer and I like to take the standard response “read more,” and add “and save great pieces of writing in a file.” I’ve turned this into a bit of an obsession with the unfortunate consequence that whenever I read, I find myself wanting to write.
Likewise, I have thousands and thousands of online book marks of articles, sites, landing pages, ads, Tweets, images, and art that I can return to if I’m ever starting to feel stale.
And through this process of collecting, and collecting, and collecting, something truly creative emerges,