BY IAN DEMING
A few weeks back, while in New York on business, I found myself wandering about Midtown with two close friends. After unsuccessfully avoiding the masses surrounding Rockefeller Center on a Saturday afternoon in December, we retreated up 5th Ave to the best respite we knew: the MoMA. Not exactly devoid of crowds, it would at least be a better way to kill a few hours before our next meeting. And, unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been to a proper museum — the last time I had carved out time to really appreciate art.
It’s sad, really. Despite attending a large, public elementary school in the city, my childhood education was submerged with all things art. Some combination of my mother’s obsession with raising “thoughtful boys” and my introverted nature meant I was thoroughly surrounded with creative inputs. Books on Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and many of the classic Impressionist painters lined my bookshelf. I spent countless hours of my childhood alone in my room painting, writing, and playing the piano. I took classes on charcoal drawing and creative storytelling. So it’s funny to me that in recent years, I’ve sometimes had trouble with art.
Maybe it’s because things move so fast these days. Or perhaps because my engagement with art is more and more tied to commerce, or micronized (and temporalized) into a 2-inch square on my phone. I thumb past beautiful images with passive interest. I forgo plays, concerts, and museum exhibits because “I don’t have the time”. Music, perhaps my first artistic love and even a decent portion of my early career has mostly been relegated to the stereo in my car between meetings.
So it was both wonderfully nostalgic and altogether moving for the soul, then, to wander through the MoMA that afternoon. To observe and enjoy at a leisurely pace. To feel lost, both literally and figuratively, in room after room of creative display. In particular, I spent the majority of my time in the fourth-floor galleries, admiring the 140-some sculptures on exhibit from one of my favorite artists: Pablo Picasso.
Though better known for his iconic paintings, the breadth of the Spanish artist’s sculpted works is diverse and beautiful. And whether I was examining the heavy, impenetrable and bulbous works of his early years or the open use of negative space and interior exposure that was characteristic of his later work, everything felt like Picasso.
Inert trash, scraps of old wood, cardboard, and metal objects had become whimsically animated through the artist’s hands. A bicycle seat and handlebars were arranged to form a totemic beast in “Bull’s Head”. A children’s toy car rendered the face of a Baboon in “Baboon and Young.”
Picasso was brilliant at this repurposing of found objects, and doing so in a way that was marked with the indelible signature of his imagination. This brought to mind the quote “good artists copy, great artists steal” (an expression that is often attributed to Picasso, though also linked to Igor Stravinsky and William Faulkner).
Regardless of the phrase’s origin, its meaning is understood. We all know there are no new ideas. And to simply copy or imitate others is not new. But to steal ideas and combine them with new objects and new ideas, to unleash one’s own creativity upon stolen items or concepts, and/or to bring multiple such ideas together — out of such combinations come newness and beauty. Bringing old ideas, products, and concepts together births new ones that are much greater than the sum of their parts.
So, to kick off the new year, Classfare (the magazine I run, for the uninitiated) has dedicated its January issue to the concept of “coming together”. To the coming together of unlikely people and materials. To collaboration. To joined ideas. To making new things. To making great things, even. And to making great things together.
(Stop by classfare.com and give our first few stories a read).
As for me personally, I’m dedicating my year to art. I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but I’m going to cultivate the habit of scheduling time for both creating and receiving beauty. Time to read more books, take longer walks, listen to more music (on the couch, not in the car), draw some pictures, and write just for fun…for no other purpose than to be inspired and to inspire. To create and enjoy creation because that’s part of what we were meant to be and do. And hopefully, in the process, my own life — and the lives of those I intersect—will be more full of beauty and life and joy.
Thanks for reading — I’m Ian Deming. I’m a marketer, writer, and the Editor-in-Chief for Classfare, an online men’s magazine that tells stories about interesting people, products, and brands.
Follow me on Medium for more musings on life, the occasional a creative piece, and favorite interviews and stories from Classfare.