Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In fact, I’d argue that it cannot exist without constant observation of the world around you. Paying attention to shapes, colors and forms of seemingly mundane objects, and even eavesdropping on everyday conversations while riding the subway can spark an idea. Then there’s always a visit to your local cultural institutions when you’re feeling the idea tank is running particularly dry.
Careening towards empty, I found myself partaking in an art-driven doubleheader a few weekends ago. Living in Toronto, my first stop was Yayoi Kusama’s blockbuster Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Kusama’s Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, pictured). Then I made the jaunt over to the Royal Ontario Museum to take in the splendor of Dior, an exhibit marking the haute couture house’s 70th anniversary.
The two displays could not have been more different. Kusama’s fascinating light-filled mirrored boxes explored the now-88-year-old artist’s obsession with self obliteration and the role of art in navigating, and even perhaps circumventing, mortality. Each 30-second visit in the six boxes provoked “the big ideas” of life/death/self-obsession and kept me thinking for hours afterward.
Dior was a markedly different experience. It compelled me to get as close as possible to the painstakingly crafted dresses, fabrics and beadwork being showcased to take in every nuance. Each piece served as a testament to the importance of detail and the pursuit of excellence in every aspect of a creation, right down to the top-stitching applied to the lining of a garment that would seldom be seen. (Le sigh. If only I had the Dior budget to go along with my appreciation of its artistry.)
Considered together, beyond refueling the creativity tank, the exhibits marked for me the parameters of what truly great creative needs to be—big, bold and executed as flawlessly as the hem of a haute couture gown (no one may see it up close, but the whole dress is ruined if it falls down).