A Cemetery of the Living

How my friend’s art connects Hollywood and ancient Egypt

Last weekend, I took a trip up to Milan. My friends and I hit all the usual sightseeing spots — the big famous Gothic cathedral, the sprawling neoclassical shopping mall known as the Galleria — but I had one special destination in mind.

My friend, the painter Tracy Molis, had a gallery show there.

Two things made this show especially interesting to me.

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James Needham’s “Bathroom Selfie” Painting Continues a 40,000-Year Artistic Tradition

But to prove it, we’re gonna have to get NSFW.

We’ve all gotten pulled into one of those conversations at one party or another: “Art is on the decline! No ones creates original work anymore! Music is produced by robots and armies of slave children! All we do is take selfies and mindlessly share them!”

That’s how art critic Jonathan Jones reacted to the above painting by artist James Needham this week. Needham is shocked — shocked — that this painting has gotten almost a million shares on Imgur. “It washes out all aesthetic ambition,” Jones wails in The Guardian, “and reduces the 600 years of art history since the Renaissance to the level of a glorified selfie.”

My response to all that is,

What do you think art history IS?

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The Beating Heart of Creativity

Why “trying” to be creative doesn’t work —and how to fix it

Everyone on earth has brilliant original ideas several times a day.

Even if you’re in a bad mood — even if you’re mentally ill — you’re brainstorming all the time. Problem is, the instant you get a great idea, one or both of the following things happens:

  1. You grab onto the idea and start trying to develop it more fully, but the more you try to shape it, the more it slips through your fingers and disappears.
  2. Your mind reacts with, “Eh, that’s not important!” and tosses the idea away before you even get a clear look at it.

These are both natural reactions, because you’ve been taught all your life to scrutinize and critique unusual ideas, while it’s unlikely that anyone’s taught you how to come up with them in the first place.

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