Aesthete-Spy and Diana Vreeland by Diana Rivera

As an ongoing practice in creativity, I investigate the world with magnified eyes. I have been using my iPhone as a lens to capture the rare moments where something strikes me as evidence of creativity, that is, symbols of the imagination unfettered by logic, stamped in the visual landscape. I click on that moment as I attempt to seize that picture. I then allow these photos to guide me to the heart of the matter, linking me to the multi-sensory world around us. In the end, it’s about linking me to you and us to us–all beings and senses combined–and its especially the case when I transform into an aesthete-spy. An aesthete-spy observes you. We connect without you knowing. Or, do you?

aes·thete or es·thete (n):

1. One who cultivates an unusually high sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature.

2. One whose pursuit and admiration of beauty is regarded as excessive or affected.

The heart of the matter is what we hunt for, long for, allure to. Often times it is without logical reason. The matter may be the frame of the portrait, the color schema, the patterns, angles and/or textures of what you see, hear, smell or feel. It’s what may be missing, yet to be unfolded or has always been right in front of you. This is why we rely on artists and aesthete-spies to magnify, follow and document the trends sunk deep into the matter. In a way, we are like Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. Clues are our prey.

I recently saw the documentary on another aesthetic huntress, Diana Vreeland. The film is called “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” and it is worth a watch. She was a noted columnist and editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazine. The film presents an important depiction of this iconic woman. She was a wife, a mother, a socialite, a creative professional and an aesthete-spy. She was attuned to the physique and mystique congruent with being a femme of her epoch. It seems that the basis of her success was providing a visual landscape that transcended the matter of magazine and transported women to faraway lands. Check out her editorial here.

Diana Vreeland explained, “I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere. It was me—projecting to the public. That was my job. I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give ‘em what they never knew they wanted.”

For the professional aesthete-spy (and those in the making), Vreeland provides us a critical clue: How do we attune to the world around us in order to find those clues? How do those clues give us insight that will connect us to our audience and give them “what they never knew they wanted”?

I am learning this lesson myself. The title of the film (“Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel”) gives me, another aesthete-spy named Diana, a sense of what a clue may be. Let your eyes travel because they must. When they do, follow and document, relentlessly.


Being an Artist, Being Twenty-Something Years Old and the Roaring 1920s by Diana Rivera

“Chance is the one thing you can’t buy. You have to pay for it and you have to pay for it with your life, spending a lot of time, you pay for it with time, not the wasting of time but the spending of time.” –Robert Doisneau

There are always access points on the grid of life. Being a certain age within a certain social epoch, pursuing an artistic field, can create its own implosion, explosion or erosion of creativity, stamina, confidence. The state of your life depends on how you access those points. Your attitude matched with your talent and risk-taking are the axial lines. The space between is the interplay of chance and time.

I’m in my thirties fostering my creative, personal and professional life. It feels and simply is different from when I was in my twenties. At this point, I am reaping the benefit, to some extent, of my artistic and educational pursuits. Then, I often stepped out onto the ledge of chance, sometimes even foolishly, and dove into the pool of experience, heart first. Reflecting back, I see how chance was a product of reducing innate desires into actions that were sometimes foreign to my everyday behavioral program.

Thinking about my twenty-something-year-old comrades who may be stepping out of art school today, I realize they are looking to make their mark professionally and creatively. They’ve come to the ledge of chance to view the pool below them impacted with social pressures, limited job prospects, lack of artistic space and expensive lifestyles in major art cities around the world. There is every reason why impatience and an aversion to chance would set in, make you retrace steps, run far away.

Being a twenty-something-year-old-artist made me think of being an artist in the vaudeville of the 192os. I see an inevitable parallel and more than just numerical.

Before the great depression hit in 1929, the 1920s offered a time of artistic chance. Actors, dancers, singers and musicians flocked to New York City and dove onto the stages to present their short acts to robust crowds of strangers. The idea of making it seemed whimsically tangible. If you could get viewers to drop to their knees in laughter, or split them in two with tears, you may have had a chance at making great money as a repeat performer. It was the most popular form of entertainment, and one of the only ways to make money as an artist–why wouldn’t you take a chance?

I could say the same thing to my twenty-something-year-old colleagues now. Everything is a 1920s Vaudeville. Dive into the access point of present tense and play with chance. As the popular American actor, James Cagney said, “Everything I know I learned in vaudeville.”

Unfortunately, people can be relentlessly practical. If you follow the history of Vaudeville, you know that many of the famous performance houses closed as a result of the depression. I could go down the road of explanation that artists were left broke and limited with resources. Many had to return home to work menial jobs to simply make money so, ultimately, don’t take a chance. To say that would be a mammoth waste of time. If creative people, including artists, scientists and inventors, believed that there was no need for chance then, all that human potential would have never been explored and we wouldn’t have twenty-something-year-olds banking on social media sites like Facebook and Spotify.

There are huge opportunities now, that weren’t present in the 1920s. Creative people have the ability to work on-line and off-line, to flourish rich connections between colleagues, and to change culture. Even if you believe that you are young, and are looking to find your way, it seems all too obvious. Go to the ledge, dive into chance, strike a change! The difference between chance and change is only one letter away, one access point apart.

The Walking Shoes of Quotes

Below is an assemblage of quotes that have provided me walking shoes for the creative endeavors I take on. I hope that it will offer you inspiration for the ongoing journey inherent in creative process:

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” ~~Henry David Thoreau

‎”The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”–Albert Einstein

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” ~~Anaïs Nin

‎”Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”~~Anais Nin

‎”The core of creation is to summon an image and the power to work with the image.”~~Anais Nin

‎”Art must suppress violence, and only art can do so”~~Leo Tolstoy

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”~~Steve Jobs, 2005

An old Hasidic proverb: “Give people a fact or an idea and you enlighten their minds; give them a story and you touch their souls.”

“I’ve realised that to try and slot myself into that world is to diminish what I have to offer. And I do have something to offer but it’s just in a different dialect, a different language.”~~Michael Stipe

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~~ Carl Jung

‎”Our duty is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”~~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

‎”Artists give the world something they didn’t know was missing…”~~Daniel Pink

Published in: on May 9, 2012 at 12:56 am  Comments (1)  

The 2012 of Creativity: Parisian Back Streets to the Imagination and Yann Tiersen by Diana Rivera

I have never met anyone with a developed sensitivity for films that abhorred the film Amelie. Sure there are people with gripes, but down right hate. No way. You’d have to be somehow cold-blooded, or at least luke warm, to not appreciate the capricious main character played by Audrey Tautou, the luminous Parisian cafes, and the mystical synchronicities in which I long 2012 to be etched. The realist may challenge idealism, stripping the essence out of belief as it slowly slips out of one’s powerful grip.

The Parisian streets of Amelie’s creative world are powerful routes into the cognitive road maps of the imagination. If they were, they would be composed by Yann Tiersen, the music composer to Amelie. I have personally fallen in and out of love, composed artistic and academic projects, serenaded by this soundtrack. I don’t think I stand alone in my interest–it’s a spectacular album.

Lately, I have been driving on a Yann Tiersen loop station to no clear end in sight. His other album, Dust Lane, has taken me momentarily out of Amelie’s Paris into other back lanes of the imagination: the desolate desert roads to let go to what you cling, and bizarre bridge crossings where longing and the ferocity of the future crash into subtle waves in the river. He makes it okay to ask: “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

I finally parked in a sonic dome with Yann Tiersen’s album, L’Absente. The album catapults the romance of courage back into the driver’s seat of the heart. For me, the song “Les Jour Tristes” is an ode to the creative artist who longs for the synchronicities and mysteries of life and art, yet balances the practicalities of the every day like bringing home the bacon, being courageous in the face of other people’s expectations or judgements, etc.

Here are the lyrics and the song:

It’s hard, hard not to sit on your hands
And bury your head in the sand
Hard not to make other plans
And claim that you’ve done all you can, all along
And life must go on
It’s hard, hard to stand up for what’s right
And bring home the bacon each night
Hard not to break down and cry
When every idea that you’ve tried has been wrong
But you must carry on

It’s hard but you know it’s worth the fight
‘Cause you know you’ve got the truth on your side
When the accusations fly, hold tight
Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say
Who cares what cowards think, anyway
They will understand one day, one day

It’s hard, hard when you’re here all alone
And everyone else has gone home
Harder to know right from wrong
When all objectivities gone
And its gone
But you still carry on
‘Cause you, you are the only one left
And you’ve got to clean up the mess
You know you’ll end like the rest
Bitter and twisted, unless
You stay strong and you carry on

It’s hard but you know it’s worth the fight
‘Cause you know you’ve got the truth on your side
When the accusations fly, hold tight
Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say
Who cares what cowards think, anyway
They will understand one day, one day

Yann Tiersen has led me through an emotional journey through music this season, and has taught me something fundamental to my resolution behind 2012. It is hard to believe in your artistry when there are accusations that hold you back. But, don’t be afraid of carrying on. Your art builds the streets, alleys, roads, bridges and freeways that drive others to feel, think and be. It is worth the battle, and there will be a major pay-off: sharing. Contributing. Offering your greatest passion to a world that could be otherwise stripped of beauty or meaning without you. It won’t be in the fantastical ways of Amelie. It will be in your signature form, led by the pulse of the Parisian streets, the dust lanes of resolution, the fortifying gates of courage.

The Echo Park of Ganesha and Creativepreneurs by Diana Rivera

Every period in humanity has a power source they are connected to. By that I mean the engine of the vehicle, the mega watt electric tower, or as Shakespeare said,  “the bigger light.” Artists can feel it happening in their blood, their bones and some times a work of art can even show proof of that power as it eloquently typifies the times.

Observing the status of the mega-verse we live in with high-speed travel, milisecond-sent-to-your-box techno-media outlets and the tweets of the twitter, we are the flapping wings of a hummingbird. Arriving to the edge of the wing is fantastic when you are ready to fall unto the lap of Ganesha, the deity elephant.

I was at a cafe in Echo Park, Los Angeles, contemplating the edge of humanity as I sourced the right name for the audience I serve. This was the perfect neighborhood to do it in as it has become a haven for the creative professional in LA, still looking for a raw, yet hip-to-the-beat, community-spirited place in what could be streets of superficiality.

I came up with Creativepreneuer. This is you: the individual, the friend, the family member, the entreprenuer, the creator, the artist who envisions and shapes our times through your creative passions, products, projects, etc. You, the creativeprenuer, are getting it done, and sometimes faster than the speed of light.

As I stumbled from the cafe, I saw Ganesha, the elephant, painted on a garage door. Ganesha is a deity of the Hindu pantheon. He represents the removal of obstacles and is a patron of the arts. It stood bold and beautiful, up against the light, fearless.

I thought of you, I thought of me, I thought of the small artisans who have opened up shop on that small street trying to make it in today’s economy. We, the creativepreneuer, step out of one’s comfort zone as a daily meditation, fall off the wings of what-is to worship what-could-be and answer to the higher creative source as a daily prayer.

To be the creativepreneuer of our time, we must overcome the tangible and intangible obstacles around us. As the elephant on the garage door reminded me, many obstacles crawl their way back, far from Ganesha’s view, to be dealt with again, and again, and then again. It takes courage to deal with every one of them.

I felt something deep in my heart, a gift from Ganesha in Echo Park that day: the creativepreneuer is someone I honor without obstacle. I serve you in my writing and my programs. I am here at this period of humanity to support you and the power source that brought Ganesha to a garage door opening.

Creative Miami: Nina Surel’s Studio, a Touch of the Feminine by Diana Rivera

On a recent trip to Miami, I came with a question: What is Creativity Today: Miami? Inside of me I was curious about the people and places that make up a synergistic artist community in the southern most cosmopolitan city of the United States, crowned and arranged in la hispanidad. Beyond Art Basel Miami, and the hoopla that international, art festivals bring to any community, what happens when the lights dim and the curtain closes? Who is still performing the fine art of their own personal performance in creativity?

I went on a hunt through the city like a fox with a compass, a clown with a note pad, a detective with a wand.

I arrived at to the Art Center SF of Miami to learn more about their artist community and organization, and was given a tour by their Executive Director, Chris Ingalls. As we walked through the corridors of the 40 + artist resident studios, we were invited into Nina Surel’s Studio by her welcoming smile and a canvas of a Klimt-esque, succulent collage painting of a majestic woman.

I had an opportunity to meet with Nina a couple of days later. The same smile welcomed me into her studio and I was drawn to how it was adorned with glass jars of costume jewelry, antique buttons, porcelain flowers and lace strings falling from shelves. Looking at the details of the room, I felt the rarity of my fingers turning into rose petaled syrup.

I came to learn about how Nina creates. When she was a young girl in small town Argentina, she became ill with a form of rheumatism. As someone who studies the psychology of creativity, I was flashing back to many research studies that had been done on well-known visual artists who tapped into their artistry as a result of illness. The symptoms left her unable to be physically rigorous. It did allow her imagination to tune her fingers into another frequency: one where she could orchestrate with clay and other materials such as fabrics, paints and sewing.

Nina described her training and mentorship with a Spanish ceramist in her town. She spoke of leaving her ‘day-job’ to claim her artistry. She offered a timeline of her experience coming to Miami as a personal revival. In the background of her explanation was the silhouette of her paintings, many of which featured a digital image of her as the principal subject adorned with flowers and arranged in jewels.

From her interpretation, I learned that her new series of paintings included her as the primary subject. Each series expressed her own personal transformation as a woman and as an artist. It was a collection of conscious and unconscious stories that propelled the play of her femininity on canvas. I encourage you to check out her collection by clicking here.

It’s interesting to wonder about why one is drawn to a piece of art. Perhaps it is this conversation between her story of the feminine that had catapulted my attention consciously and unconsciously  to be curious and seek out a conversation. As she poured me jasmine pearl tea, my fingers wrapped around the dainty floral painted porcelain cup. I sat back with the peace in knowing that any artist’s work is a result of an intrapersonal conversation and it is in moments of  inquiry and authentic listening, that I heard an artist’s personal journey as if it were my own.

What is creative Miami? Within that hour, creative Miami was an authentic exchange of experience, shaped into a conversation, distilled onto canvas. It was the antiquated pieces of jewelry, paints and fabrics that defined the collage as a story where I became a character within it: a crowning flower with wings of an ear.

Points to ponder:

Have you met an artist recently that has sparked your curiosity? What would you care to know about in that person? How does that question relate to you?

The Art of Physics and Beethoven by Diana Rivera

Energy can be neither created, nor destroyed. It can only change form. This is a law of energy conservation and also a premise for creative activity. It could help to explain the energy it takes to create a product from one’s imagination, as well as the challenges artists overcome, to direct energy toward their artistic product. All that creative energy is neither created, nor destroyed, but changes form in relationship to thoughts, beliefs, social and cultural milieu.

Let me fasten this connection with Leonard Shlain’s book, Art and Physics, to Beethoven.

Shlain’s book looks at a history of art through the lens of science to assert that scientific phenomena was, in many cases, first looked at, grappled with and explored in visual art. Artists were either consciously asking or working within the consciousness of exploration that scientists were invested in, specifically space, time and light. Listen to a lecture by Shlain here.

The book expanded the galaxy of imagination to consider artists as scientific phenomena. Take Beethoven and the vast talent in his form: he struggled intensely in his personal life with memories of a verbally abusive childhood, to medical issues affecting his stomach and ultimately his own hearing. As the savant composer began to make his mark in music history, he slowly became deaf.

For many, a disability to this extent could be the end of their career. In fact, Beethoven also struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide.

An artist’s drive to create is an energy and that energy can not be destroyed, it just changes into form. In the epoch of Beethoven’s weakest physical state, that energy was a force that thrusted into the galaxy of the imagination. As a result, he produced the 9 symphonies that have marked his career in the history of art, music and culture.

Thinking of this reminded me of Symphony #7. Whenever I listen to it, I feel an incredible potential moving toward the center of the unknown. In my youtube research, I discovered the exact visual experience, and it was deeper. It was symphony #7 to hubble space images.

The energy that had changed form in Beethoven resembled the luminous spirals in our galaxy. If it were a song, this might be the one to serenade an experience through the outer unknown manifestation of our imagination. If not, then what a fascinating voyage through the art of physical phenomena and the physical phenomena of art.

Points to ponder:

What is the role of energy in your personal, professional and creative life?

Pina Bausch and Leonardo da Vinci at the Goodwill by Diana Rivera

Since I was in middle school, I have had a very synergistic relationship with vintage shops, garage sales and sidewalk peddler products. Not sure how it could be that one day I’d be imagining some ambiguous silk chinese cocktail dress, and then I’d get an instinct to go to the Goodwill (a salvation army style thrift shop), and all of a sudden, it would be there. The one I had imagined. Besides no one, I am the only person that has such a rare existence with a thrift shop. It’s clearly a conversation with destiny: goodwill represents a space where my imagination materializes.

I go there to find things to repair, rip up and recreate. I go there to salvage treasures. I also call in creators from the past. I know this one seems like a stretch, but I have some evidence.

A year or so ago, I wrote a piece on Pina Bausch (read it here) whose work has stunned me, haunted me, left a trace embedded forever in my imagination. Recently I realized that Wim Wenders had produced a film in honor of her.

The day I saw this trailer, I had been thinking of Pina, and as I was driving by the Goodwill, I knew I had to stop in. Like a whisper-of-an-instinct of where to go, I quickly walked to the poster section and there it was. An original framed poster of the women of the Wuppertal Theatre, Pina Bausch’s theatre company. Here is a picture:

To me, it’s highly unlikely that a poster like this is circulating regularly around Goodwill, untouched and only $20. In fact, I am so positive about it, I felt that feeling that I had been gifted with a present from the creator herself. Perhaps it was a recognition of the work? Or perhaps she knew she was on my mind?

The next evidence of said relationship is with Leonardo da Vinci. I had been reading of his contributions as a scientist of the arts and an artist of the sciences in Leonard Shlain’s book, Art and Physics. I was driving by the Goodwill and I had that same little voice go off. It was clear: go to the magazine section. I went and guess what I found:

How is that I have been called by instinct to the Goodwill to find these little treasures? The beauty is that they could be meaningless garbage to everybody else, but for me there is clearly a greater message: Pina and Leonardo had their eyes on me too.

It made me think: what if there were creators from the past who you follow that also follow you? The one I refer to is a more transpersonal approach to following, something that twitter could never compare to.

Point to ponder:

What if it took a little faith in believing that you are taken care of by the creative entities you most admire? How would things be different for you right now?

Creativity Today in Los Angeles: Poster Art and Trash Art by Diana Rivera

I was thinking about that song from the 90’s by Missing Persons, “Nobody Walks in LA.” The song is essentially about how nobody does walk in LA and how ironic it is when even teenagers and cops don’t. Having grown up this side of the pond, I used to agree with the punky thrasher lyrics, but nowadays I have seen some real shifts in its transportation culture, street culture and therefore urban art culture. Uniquely and not quite ironically, the city is bursting with little nooks and crannies of artist expression in little back alleys, corner store holes and underneath cars. You have to have an eye toward the the less obvious ways that creativity presents itself in our culture.

That’s when I enter the stage with my evidence of creativity photos and Creativity Today web-series. Here’s a couple of examples of creativity that I have seen as of recent.

Shepard Fairey’s poster designs on Sunset Blvd:

This one was next to his studio in the Echo Park neighborhood and shows the multidimensional strength of Lance Armstrong. This could have been a hard one to spot if one was speeding up Sunset Blvd.

The second photo is of another poster art design I spotted in Downtown LA. The once decrepit sector of LA, has been experiencing a renaissance in neighborhoods like the Barker Block district where on one brick wall, I found another Fairey bombing of an artist warrior of sorts and a contrasting piece on hope. Inspiring for a neighborhood that has struggled with hope.

The third photo is a piece of trash. Yes indeed, trash on the street has meaning and this one was quite delightful. As I was walking in Silverlake, I was crossing a street to notice a shredded piece of paper for priority admission to a Tim Burton film. Check out the imagery though: a tilted staircase with a forlorn fellow walking up the stairs.

The last evidence of creativity is a collage image on a trash can. Check out my video:

Points to ponder:

Have you been out of your car and noticed the evidence of creativity around you?

How might you contribute to the everyday creativity on the streets?

Lennon, Ono, the Creative Frequency and the Big Message by Diana Rivera

John Lennon, Yoko Ono and a group of creative professionals in a 10-week program called the Creative Frequency relate more than just in my imagination. Firstly, a couple things you should know about me as the writer of this blog: I love to blow bubbles into thin air and admire the colors; I also love playing scrabble and patterning words to other words, instinctually. This is all to say, I like to make rippling connections between experiences that bubble to surface and than heat into a relationship where words are needed to simmer  it down.

This past Saturday I  ended a 10 week series that I had carefully constructed a year before. The purpose was to bring together a variety of creative professionals from a variety of creative fields (performance, art, design, music). We focused on empowerment of creative aptitude to the skills and strategies of creating a final product. We came together that day so everyone could present for 30 minutes their final outcome. We ate, we talked, we laughed, some of us even cried. One of the participants even skyped in from NYC. It was, like the title of the project intended, a frequency of high creative energy bubbling between us. In one moment, it dawned on me like a spectrum of color that the imagination is capable of creating anything.

This is where Lennon and Ono enter upstage. Driving through Hollywood, I noticed this huge wall poster that had been pasted to a cement wall. It was of Lennon, Ono and a sweet dog. Although the image had been rained on, I could see their figure a block away. I knew they were there to connect the frequency of energy and spectrum of revelations with one triangulating message that Lennon and Ono had written in the poster, “All you need is Love.” This was their 5 word pattern message as a united, creative duo. It was simple, and in that simplicity penetrated internationally and inter-generationally, making me ask myself on my ride home: what is your message to the world?

One of my messages is the belief that the imagination exists and it is the key to our individual and collective future. I had felt it with the group that day and I knew it by heart. Then, a flash: the sound of the song “Imagine”  arrived, twirling into clarity of gesture. The lyrics laid themselves before me. Whatever you can in your greatest vision imagine is only half of what is possible, but that half you are fully responsible in creating.