Andrew Bujalski on the art and business of film / Charles Lyons on going for broke / The Puffy Chair / Why Film Production Majors Should Be Replaced by Auto Mechanics / JuneBug, 2046, and Mutual Appreciation / David Chien on Caveh Zahedi's I am a Sex Addict / Donal Foreman on Independent Film / Donal Foreman on the Irish Television and Film Industry / Quotations about the artistic process/ Tarkovsky on film school and trying to please people / Donal Foreman on the State of the Art / Other films and filmmakers / Quiet City / Henry James, Art of Fiction 1 / Henry James, Art of Fiction 2 / Emerson, Circles, 1 / Emerson, Circles, 2 / Avedon on Alfredson / David Ball Interview


To read more quotes about art and life from filmmakers, click here.

A note from Ray Carney:

A reader sent the following note and series of quotations about art to me. I’d invite other readers to send me other favorite quotes. I’ll post the best on the site.


Dear Prof. Carney:

My bit of soul work for today, put together for me and for you. I enjoyed doing this so much, I hope you do too. I thought it would be interesting to let the artists speak for themselves regarding art. Maybe this will provide plenty of tidbits for your website or whatever. I'm sure you've read many before, but maybe a few will be new. Good soul food for thought.


Martha James

On Art

(Quotations from Bartlett’s, Columbia, and Simpson’s books of quotations)

Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it. – Flannery O’Connor

“The essential quality of poetry is that it makes a new effort of attention, and "discovers" a new world within the known world. Man, and the animals, and the flowers, all live within a strange and for ever surging chaos. ... But man cannot live in chaos. ... Man must wrap himself in a vision, make a house of apparent form and stability, fixity. In his terror of chaos he begins by putting up an umbrella between himself and the everlasting whirl. Then he paints the under-side of his umbrella like a firmament. Then he parades around, lives and dies under his umbrella. Bequeathed to his descendants, the umbrella becomes a dome, a vault, and men at last begin to feel that something is wrong.

Man fixes some wonderful erection of his own between himself and the wild chaos, and gradually goes bleached and stifled under his parasol. Then comes a poet, enemy of convention, and makes a slit in the umbrella; and lo! the glimpse of chaos is a vision, a window to the sun. But after a while, getting used to the vision, and not liking the genuine draught from chaos, commonplace man daubs a simulacrum of the window that opens on to chaos, and patches the umbrella with the painted patch of the simulacrum. That is, he has got used to the vision; it is part of his house-decoration. So that the umbrella at last looks like a glowing open firmament, of many aspects. But alas! it is all simulacrum, in innumerable patches. – D.H. Lawrence

It is the glory and good of Art
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth,—to mouths like mine, at least. – Robert Browning
Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Truth is the secret of eloquence and of virtue, the basis of moral authority; it is the highest summit of art and of life. – Henri Frederic Amiel
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility,—
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part. – Robert Herrick
Art for art’s sake, with no purpose, for any purpose perverts art. But art achieves a purpose which is not its own. – Benjamin Constant
Fine art, that exists for itself alone, is art in a final state of impotence. If nobody, including the artist, acknowledges art as a means of knowing the world, then art is relegated to a kind of rumpus room of the mind and the irresponsibility of the artist and the irrelevance of art to actual living becomes part and parcel of the practice of art. – Angela Carter
Good art however “immoral” is wholly a thing of virtue. ... Good art can NOT be immoral. By good art I mean art that bears true witness, I mean the art that is most precise. – Ezra Pound
Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs. – Pablo Picasso
Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art. – Pablo Picasso
There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun. – Pablo Picasso

Art is not to be taught in Academies. The real schools should be the streets. – Oscar Wilde
Art for art’s sake? I should think so, and more so than ever at the present time. It is the one orderly product which our middling race has produced. It is the cry of a thousand sentinels, the echo from a thousand labyrinths, it is the lighthouse which cannot be hidden ... it is the best evidence we can have of our dignity. – E.M. Forster
Art is 110 percent sweat. – Robert Riskin
Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don’t want it. – Anthony Burgess
Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Art and power will go on as they have done,—will make day out of night, time out of space, and space out of time. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
To ask the meaning of art is like asking the meaning of life: Experience comes before a measurement against a value system. – Fairfield Porter
Art is the window to man’s soul. Without it, he would never be able to see beyond his immediate world; nor could the world see the man within. – Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson
To choose art means to turn one’s back on the world, or at least on certain of its distractions. – Melvin Maddocks
All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. – Federico Fellini
[Discipline in art is] a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing. – Henry Moore
Art is only a means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself. – Henry Miller
Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth. – Pablo Picasso
Art is the triumph over chaos. – John Cheever
Art means to dare—and to have been right. – Ned Rorem
Art begins with resistance—at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor. - André Gide
I am an artist... I am here to live out loud. – Emile Zola
The defining function of the artist is to cherish consciousness. – Max Eastman
The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery. – Francis Bacon
The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting. – Vincent Van Gogh
There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted. – Henri Matisse
If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint. – Edward Hopper
In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it. – Ernst Fischer
Out of suffering comes creativity. You cannot spell painting without pain. – John Lithgow
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. – Henry Ward Beecher
Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost. – Isak Dineson
It doesn't matter if people are interested. It's about you taking your stuff and shouting out into the void. – Jadeir and Cristina Cordova
Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend. – John Singer Sargent
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. – Joseph Chilton Pearce
Creativity is...seeing something that doesn't exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God. – Michele Shea
I shut my eyes in order to see. – Paul Gaugin
Art itself may be defined as a single minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. – Joseph Conrad
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. – Albert Einstein
The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. – T.S. Elliot
The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done, unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living. - T.S. Elliot
It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance...and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. – Henry James, Jr.
Try to keep the rebel artist alive in you, no matter how attractive or exhausting the temptation. – Norman Mailer
When the guns roar, the arts die. – Arthur Miller
The task which the artist implicitly sets himself, is to overthrow existing values, to make of the chaos about him an order which is his own, to sow strife and ferment, so that by the emotional release those who are dead may be restored to life. – Henry Miller
The subject matter of art is life, life as it actually is; but the function of art is to make life better. – George Santayana
Art is not pleasure or an amusement; art is a great matter. Art is an organ of human life transmitting our reasonable perception into feeling. – Leo Tolstoy
Art heightens the sense of humanity. It gives an elation to feeling which is supernatural...A million sunsets will not spur us on towards civilization. It requires Art to evoke into consciousness the finite perfections which lie ready for human achievement. – Alfred North Whitehead
Art for a negation of society, an affirmation of the individual, outside of all the rules and all the demands of society. – Emile Zola
I can't bear art that you can walk round and admire. A book should be either a bandit or a rebel or a man in the crowd. – D.H. Lawrence
The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers. – James Arthur Baldwin
Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. – Jonathan Swift
The individual, the great artist when he comes, uses everything that has been discovered or known about his art up to that point, being able to accept or reject in a time so short it seems that the knowledge was born with him, rather than that he takes instantly what it takes the ordinary man a lifetime to know, and then the great artist goes beyond what has been done or known and makes something of his own. – Ernest Hemingway

The quotations that follow were sent in by J.P. Carpio. Ray Carney invites readers to submit other quotes. He will post the most interesting ones on this page.

In response to your request for quotations on art, I'm attaching a list of thoughts and inspirations I've written and collected over the last 3 years.Most of them are my own thoughts on art. A lot of them are derivative from the words of other great artists, some might be witty, some might just be plain cute, but I hope some hold some grain of the truth. The other part of the list (the beloved) includes things expressed by my friends and family, things that I thought too important not to be taken down. And the final part of the list includes the words of several of the greatest artists of all time, some I got from your site, some from other sources that I can't recall anymore.--J.P. Carpio

Reflections on Art


I can do this not because I am above it, but because I am in it. I can talk to you about screwed up, well-meaning and not so well-meaning people trying their best to make sense of themselves and their situations, because I am one.

It feels terrible for me to talk about what artists have said before experiencing what they have shared.

People often confuse simplicity and being simplistic. Simplicity is one of the roads to art and truth, but being simplistic is the dead end.

If you can spend all your time on nonsense, you can definitely spare some of it for meaningful work.

At the same time we despair and rejoice: We despair as artists, discouraged that we may never equal or surpass what has been accomplished before. We rejoice as people, energized by the discovery of experience.

Artists may be fighting a losing battle, but they’re still fighting.

We live many lives and die many deaths in the pauses.

When we (Filipinos) speak of film, by the word we use like “business” instead of “art” or “industry” instead of “community” or “product” instead of “creation” or “trends” instead of personal visions or “being popular, cool and hip” instead of being good, humble and honest, we reveal the unconscious low esteem we deem it. And this goes deeper than words. It questions our very intentions for making films.

It is a struggle not to allow our knowledge of cinema to overwhelm our depiction of life.

I get frustrated at times. The words and my imagination compete together in a three-legged race gone awry. Imagination drags the words behind by the temporary third leg they share. And no one else runs the race except them.

People mistake truth as one of the approaches to art. It is not an approach. The goal of all art is personal truth.

One must always be aware: things like rawness, naturalness, quirkiness, grittiness and realism if one is not careful, can also become gimmicks themselves in shortcut art.

I’d rather be perceived as boring, indulgent and be truthful than flashy, hip and be empty.

As artists, we have to be selfish in order to be generous.

At some level or another, all artists are pretentious … but the final proof is in their work. But then again, I’ve only heard critics use that word to describe artists.

As artists, we are mouthpieces of God.

Our best work is always ahead of us, or maybe right in front of us?

A work of art will teach you how to appreciate it.

As artists, we must not work to affirm or reinforce the worst of our biases.

I disagree with the use of cynicism as a means for expression. To me cynicism is the equivalent of giving up.

A lot of filmmakers, or a lot of artists and critics and audience members for that matter, make the mistake of separating or attempting to separate what we call the universal and the simple from the specific manifestations, and the complex means of our expressions. I am not saying that striving for the universal and the simple are of any less value than being specific and complex. The concepts of equating the universal with being relatable to all, and the simple with being clear and concise are not at fault. The flaw lies in our understanding and use of them. This often comes to abuse when businessmen subvert these two virtues in order to gain the largest market share possible. Homogenization poses under the guise of the universal, and simplification masquerades as the simple. These virtues are wasted.

As artists, we struggle to discover a relationship between personal expression and truth.

There is so much gentleness we haven’t allowed ourselves to express. If you’re threatened, that means the audience will be threatened. That is good. Threatened not by plain shock, but the shock of truths in your images. They can’t just sit back and treat it like a popcorn or shock flick. They will be forced to get involved. To CARE.

Constantly intellectualizing feelings and experiences is the end of involvement.

We have to see our lives as more than routines with momentary distractions, otherwise, what else is there?

I express myself but I create for everyone.

"Art is a way of moving out of yourself and coming home to yourself at the same time."

“You made me really think all of a sudden. You got me involved and hand in hand with my thoughts are feelings and murmurs of my soul. That’s what your films must do.” - Text message to filmmaker Raya Martin, 27 July 2005

Truth is not an expression of the ideal, but rather our denials …

Art is a way of not being afraid.

Creating art is like sprinkling flowering seeds on an empty lot that’s not even yours.

The hope for artists is not in the worldly fame and fortune that may or may not come someday. Nor is it the worldly acceptance of one’s work by one’s peer or the general public. The hope for artists is that despite everything, despite thousands of years of resistance, indifference and ignorance towards art – and the artists’ flawed humanity, God continues to allow true, honest art to be created. As I write this, somewhere, an art is being created, and when I can no longer do anything, art will still be created.

Art is an invitation to live.

As artists we should not go for laughter per se. We should go for what my friend Raya Martin calls life laughter. It’s the difference between, “Hahahahahahaha.” And “Hehehehe … hehehehe … hehehe … hehe … uh …. Hehe …”

(This one is indebted to my actor and good friend Emerson.) If certain people start liking your work, then as an artist, you might need to start getting worried.

The audience’s identifying with things in a film comes dangerously close to flattery, at times even crossing the line. As an artist, I do not wish to flatter. I wish to touch, provoke or even disturb.

Somewhere in between an artist’s early work and the later work comes doubt and hesitation. Or do doubt and hesitation ever really leave?

An artist once said that all art forms aspire to music. I believe that all music aspires to a specific silence.

Usually the stories of people are much more interesting than the stories we write about people.

As Cassavetes once said, “you have to fight sophistication.” We have to recognize that creeping feeling of “oh, been there, done that, whatever, so what, I’m not impressed” before it imperceptibly curls its coils around our ribs, cutting off our creative and enthusiastic airs. We have to fight to retain that sense of wonder that we once possessed as babies coming into the world. We have to recall and keep the feeling of not being able to see for nine months plus, then suddenly our eyes begin to first discern the color green … part of our very survival as functioning, living artists depends on this.

Part of our existence in paradox is that everything created by God has potentially creative and destructive natures that co-exist within them. Water brings life. Flood devastates landscape. Fire cooks food. Fire burns flesh. Air cools. Air uproots. Earth provides a place for things to grow. Earth smothers. Man creates. Man destroys.

On a maxim of art, “you have to know the rules before you break them” is only partially true up to a point. Any artist worth his or her salt in whatever medium whether they knew this or not, whether they subscribe to this or not ended up inventing their own rules.

The martial art Tai Chi Chuan is often referred to as “movement in stillness” or “stillness in motion”. This paradox also has its connections to science. While the composition of our bodies, of nature, of structures, are seemingly stable, at rest, the molecules, our atoms, our sub-atomic particles and their subsequent divisions that make up these things exist in constant motion. This is what we must learn, explore and express in our lives and in our arts, however and whatever they may be.

Why do we ask the questions we have no answers to? Why do we ask the questions that we know the answers will hurt?

Saint-Exupery in his THE LITTE PRINCE noted that grown-ups like nothing more than children who exhibit the characteristics of grown-ups. In connection with this is our almost amusing attraction to talking animals or trees or objects, or the inanimate becoming otherwise. How we delight in candlesticks doing Broadway numbers or chimpanzees learning sign language. In other words, we seem to find something good in the non-human displaying something that might be recognized as human characteristics. Where does this need for order come from, this need of comfort in familiarity? We do not realize that it is the very non-human disposition of these things: animals, nature, man-made objects, etc. that make them essential rather what we find of ourselves in them.

Oh strange reversals of perception once we step inside familiar, yet different borders each time.

If personal truths seem at times so common sense and obvious, why haven’t we realized them before?

In art, there’s a difference between the use of repetition in the structure and style of a work and just plain belaboring the point.

We invent things to help us see better, hear better, make things taste better, do things faster, show things clearer, be able to fit great amounts of things in the tiniest spaces, look physically better, talk each other over great distances, travel further and further, live longer, etc. ... But we still find it hard to really see things as they are, to really listen to one another, to communicate better, to feel for one another, to be more sensitive to one another, to love one another, to live our lives better.

Art can be cliché but life in its details can never be cliché.

… or as my poet friend said, we express the best and worst parts of ourselves in our art.

What I wish for the audience when they encounter my films is to be like people sitting in their houses doing regular things, things they are very familiar with: eating dinner, drinking, reading, watching television, talking, taking a bath, making love, sleeping … when suddenly there is a power failure and the whole house goes dark, then the audience is forced to grope in the darkness, the familiar becoming somehow unfamiliar, the certain becoming temporarily uncertain. Where the eyes cannot function a chair, a table, a wall, become new in your hands; plain room air takes on a particular scent; we begin to hear the silence more clearly … Where the other senses become heightened, they are forced to use their senses in new ways. They are forced to find their own way through the darkness, not towards a candle or flashlight, but to learn from the wisdom of this particular darkness to the point where even the eyes begin to make out the shapes in it.

the beloved

I was supposed to get a book on film gender. I realized we shouldn’t be challenging film history, but life itself. - Raya Martin, filmmaker

Maybe I should focus on idea that still, film is a search of myself than being an individual who wants to comment on things. - Raya Martin

“I don’t see things in terms of having a career and making it in the industry. I want to create works.” – Raya Martin

“Even if one were to portray reality, the product in itself is not an exact copy of reality. One could never copy reality. Sad but also challenging.” - Christian Lacuesta, writer

“In the process of creation, we lose ourselves. Siguro kaya nagpahinga din ang Diyos (Maybe that is why God also rested) on the seventh day because after creating man in his image, he lost a part of himself, too.” - Christian Lacuesta, writer

… I was struck by the thought that contrary to what I believe, dreamers (and artists and thinkers) are not yet dead. Because in our town, while writing about it, I have realized what the real poverty of the people is. Such poverty of hope. Such hopelessness. We have lost everything: the capacity to think, to hope, to dream, to live. All we are waiting for is death and our destruction and the passage of time and the loss of memory. And why? Because we have nothing to dream about, having known nothing else. - Christian Lacuesta, writer

I try to remind myself of things that are beautiful and important … I guess this is one of those days when one fights to know but can’t … So I close my eyes and remind myself of beautiful things again. - Joy Domingo

“Maybe you had questions that these films couldn’t answer. Then you decided to make your own films to find the answers.” - Ate Pau

“Only by running away from safety can we make our wildest dreams come true.” - Ellen Ongkeko

“We are not human doings. We are human beings.” - Jourdan Sebastian

“You have to find control first, then lose it. Don’t lose control, then try to look for it.” - Chrysmas Gawaran

“… be aware of the feel of your clothes on your skin". - Jennifer Carino’s father

What's so pretentious about filming ordinary stuff? - Donal Foreman

As an experimental filmmaker I know, Vivienne Dick, said in one of her films: "I only create when I let go". - e-mail from Donal Foreman, 2 Sept 2005

“… any film I've written where I AM one of the characters, it never works, all the other characters come out dismally because I'm not entering into their point of view. For MY FRIEND'S HOUSE, I can honestly say that I am all of the characters and none of the characters. I feel I've been where each one of them has been in some way----and if I failed with any of them it was probably because I hadn't really been them as much as I thought I have. Actually, I think on this film it will suit me better to think of the character as NOT me. As someone else. I don't want the character to feel connected to nature, to have ideas about nature or religion as I do----I want him to be confused, ordinary, discovering something.” - Donal Foreman

“I want to make films because it scares me.” - unknown classmate of Donal Foreman, e-mail 4 Sept 2005

“Maybe the only thing to do is incorporate your feelings for XXX --- and the confusions and doubts and insecurities that are presumably surrounding those feelings---into the film? "Film what you are" and all that.... And hard though you're situation sounds----it's also a great place to be in, both creatively and existentially. Imagine how boring it would be if you knew exactly what to do, had the whole film worked out, didn't have any feelings for your actors! So savour it, difficult as it is. Savour the difficulty.” - Donal Foreman, Filmmaker, in an e-mail to me

“What are unseen often times are the real and beautiful essences of what are seen.” – Ninay Osa Gamban Gamboa

“The most modern thing in film is feeling.” – Emman De La Cruz

“… I think most movies are simply "about" other movies and seldom about life or reality.” – Peter Green

“The artist’s perception of his repression seems to inspire him to create.” – Christian Lacuesta

“i guess humilty is the greatest push up or down. but there is no other way to deliver and serve art(life), being pompous in the process invites intimidation or a peek hole so high that neither the children can reach to take a peek. i bow when i sing and share in that way everyone sees my back. the front and the back. the front or the back i say deliver low carrying on with the heights of principles. and for the silence - yes, i think it is the ultimate source.” - Francis Mantis, musician and actor

“Art (theatre, literature, film, visual arts, music, etc.) demands honesty.” – Betty Uy-Regala, writer and actress

We shouldn't use art to propagate our own prejudices, but we must ask questions and open discussion on challenging stereotypes. - Yvette Pantilla, "drawing the diaspora"

Nobody ever asks a white artist, "So how is your work WASPy?" (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) Why must Filipino artists always be questioned, "So how is your work Filipino?" Why are Filipino artists made to feel they must meet the Western world's exoticized expectations of what "Filipino" art should be? – Yvette Pantilla, “drawing the diaspora”

the storm is almost over. it was a moment of chaos that reminds us of the chaos within. – Jay Cruz, dance choreographer

"One thing I learned today is progression not perfection." - Francis Mantis, 21 July 2006, e-mail

"With me I have that certain feeling when I create. It as if nothing is really done. I tend to stop at some interesting points ... So I just jump to some new ones." – Francis Mantis, 21 July 2006, e-mail

“Labels don’t really matter. You don’t even have to call yourself an artist <and for sure, the word ‘artist’ will be abused as well in the future by future posers>. Just do what you have to do. Yun lang. (That’s all.)” – Jenny Logico, actress extraordinaire, in a Aug.5, 2006 text message

“… remember that creation is the only viable form of rebellion.” – Donal Foreman

the inspirers

What is artistic creation? Conviction. And if it is conviction it means it is accompanied by errors. If errors then - does this indicate falseness? No, firstly, errors do not always indicate falseness, and secondly, why avoid errors if art utilises not truth, not essence, but an image of truth, an image of essence. [...] - Andrei Tarkovsky, filmmaker

"The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good." - Andrei Tarkovsky

“Never try to convey your idea to the audience - it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.” - Andrei Tarkovsky

"My quarrel with this generation is that they copy their teachers.... They don’t want freedom. They want to be told what to do.... The younger generation is too anxious to please, too eager to be accepted. For art, this is death. To young dancers, I want to say: ‘Do what you feel you are, not what you think you ought to be.’ " --Anna Sokolov

“Look at Rembrandt and Van Gogh. They trusted their vocations and did not allow anyone to lead them astray … they followed their vocations from the moment they recognized them. They didn’t bend over to please their friends or enemies. Both ended their lives in poverty, but both left humanity with gifts that could heal the minds and hearts of many generations of people. Think of these two men and trust that you too have a unique vocation that is worth claiming and living out faithfully.” - Henri Nouwen

Hope you're squaring off with the academic Fascists. When I think about this country and what to value these days, I come up with only my daughter, friends, some good bakeries, brew pubs and an occasional amazing meal from a foreign tradition. The Arts are full of entitlement junkies, pop poseurs and out and out charlatans. I'd like to be a Liberal, but that's impossible given the absurdity of most of their chatter. I certainly can't be a Conservative. I'll be dead soon enough without that. So maybe I'm just a Dissenter, or with Conrad Aiken, "a yea sayer with nothing to say yea to." excerpt from a Rob Nilsson e-mail to Ray Carney

Only when art is non-political can it be radical. Only when it transcends all political systems and stands for the human heart, the rights of the individual, the reality of human contradiction, the raw intolerance of talent, empathy, fellow feeling, and that highly charged, chaotic, largely misunderstood mystery we choose to call love, can it fulfill its cathartic responsibility. – Rob Nilsson

“A young man is afraid of his demon and puts his hand over the demon’s mouth sometimes and speaks for him.” – D.H. Lawrence

It is the spectator, and not life that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself. – Oscar Wilde

Unknown: Art is life conscious of itself. Criticism is art conscious of itself.

The passion should not be on the form. The passion should be about life. - Bing Lao, screenwriter

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. –Aristotle

“Is the artist secretly in love with failure? One might ask.” – Joyce Carol Oates

“That’s what creativity is all about. You always tell yourself that the next one will be better, and then the next one, and so on until the end of your life. It’s like scooping up water in your hands, some of it will always seep through the cracks. You cannot capture everything.” – Zhang Yimou

“There’s no safety in film which dares the visions and verges because to succeed is often to be praised for the wrong reasons, and the failure of a film which dares greatly brings no distinction. I think that the ancient Goddess of Art is uncompromising and grim in her judgments. No one knows who is right about a piece of work. That’s up to critics to ramble on about. But there’s a place in the collectivity of a culture’s thoughts about itself and the world where space curves in on itself and withers all pretenders, a place where undeniable work takes its place in the on- going mosaic of human inspiration. This is where serious artists hope to be remembered. Of the many aspirants, few arrive. Yet this is the game, the gambit, the highest reaching, the richest imagining, but tenuous and limited in the face of a universe we hardly understand at all. Still, to me, this imagining is the root of science, the content of religion, the reality of the one thing I find where I start to want to use the word true. The thing is called poetry. This is the root which tunnels down into the DNA, the ganglia, the nerve center and radiates outward to the furthest reaches of whatever space is. I call it poetry, but of course that’s just a word. It signifies something for me which carries the secret genetics of whatever humans are, or are becoming in a mysterious ground made of energy and light, physical, sensual, palpable, but also, nothing at all, the sounds of strings, or horns or flutes echoing down an intertwining dark night alley of time, space, and the human ability to wonder about it all. So we’re out there wondering again.” – Rob Nilsson


A note from Ray Carney:

One of my current writing projects involves "the problem of genius"--What is it? How do we know it when we see or hear it? How does it come about? What does it do? How does the world respond to it?

In my research I came across the following quote and wanted to share it with my readers. There is a lot to think about in it:

The teenage pianist Ignatz Moscheles was told, in 1804, of a young composer who had just arrived in Vienna, who "wrote the oddest stuff you ever saw, music that no one could play or understand. Crazy music. Insane music. That violated all the rules of composition. And that this composer's name was Beethoven." Moscheles went to the bookstore "to satisfy my curiosity about this so called wild man. I found there a copy of score of the Pathetique Sonata but I didn't have enough money to buy it, so I secretly went back every day for the next week and copied it down. The style was so unusual and I became so excited by it that in my admiration I forgot to tell my teacher when I played it for him. When I did he warned me about such strange stuff until I had learned the correct, approved pieces and based my style upon established methods. I ignored him of course and seized upon Beethoven's piano works as they appeared in the stores, and found in them a solace and delight such as no composer before him had afforded me.'"

Dear RC,

Here are more quotes I came up with on genius. The greats have much to teach about their perspective on life. I feel as though they're a real and vital part of the ongoing Mailbag discussion. I hope your readers are enjoying them half as much as I am. All great food for the soul.


On Genius

(Quotations from Bartlett’s, Columbia, and Simpson’s books of quotations)

“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and portals of discovery.” – James Joyce

“There are no wrong notes.” – Art Tatum

“Accept your genius and say what you think.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein

“Less is more.” – M. van der Rohe

“All that is required of genius is loving the truth.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Genius – To know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.” – William James

“Man as an individual is a genius. But men in the mass form a Headless Monster, a great brutish idiot that goes where prodded.” – Sir Charles Spencer”Charlie” Chaplin

“There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.” – Aristotle

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Since when was genius found respectable?” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Genius does what it must, talent does what it can.” – Edward Robert, Earl of Lytton

“We hold that the most wonderful and splendid proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age.” – Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

“Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.” – Henri Frederic Amiel

“Genius is talent provided with ideals. Genius starves while talent wears purple and fine linen. The man of genius of today will in fifty years’ time be in most cases no more than a man of talent.” – Somerset Maugham

“Genius means the transcendent capacity to take trouble.” – Thomas Carlyle

“Genius is present in every age, but the men carrying it within them remain benumbed unless extraordinary events occur to heat up and melt the mass so that it flows forth.” – Denis Diderot

“Genius ... is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one, and where the man of talent sees two or three, plus the ability to register that multiple perception in the material of his art.” – Ezra Pound

“A genius can never expect to have a good time anywhere, if he is a genuine article, but America is about the last place in which life will be endurable at all for an inspired writer of any kind.” – Samuel Butler

“The especial genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency.” – Margaret Fuller

“A man of genius has a right to any mode of expression.” – Ezra Pound

*In a future age of vision and genius, nothing will be obscene.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What is genius?—To will both a lofty goal and the means to achieving it.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

“What is genius-but the power of not being confined by the identity you were born with?” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Talent shuffles the deck. Genius plays a whole new game.” - Mason Cooley

“The secret of genius is to detect every fiction as fiction and not to shy from speaking truths that all men acknowledge but are afraid to pronounce in mixed company.– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We owe to genius always the same debt, of lifting the curtain from the common, and showing us that divinities are sitting disguised in the seeming gang of gypsies and peddlers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Talent may frolic and juggle; genius makes real and gives to the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are as much informed of a writer’s genius by what he selects as by what he originates. We read the quotation with his eyes, and find a new and fervent sense; as a passage from one of the poets, well recited, borrows new interest from the rendering. As the journals say,”the italics are ours.”” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Freedom is the only law which genius knows.” – James Russell Lowell

“But don’t despise error. When touched by genius, when led by chance, the most superior truth can come into being from even the most foolish error. The important inventions which have been brought about in every realm of science from false hypotheses number in the hundreds, indeed in the thousands.” – Stefan Zweig

“I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope that it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You may try but you can never imagine what it is to have a man's form of genius in you, and to suffer the slavery of being a girl.” – George Eliot

“As in digging for precious metals in the mines, much earthy rubbish has first to be troublesomely handled and thrown out; so, in digging in one’s soul for the fine gold of genius, much dullness and common-place is first brought to light.” – Herman Melville

"A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam that flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his own thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a sort of alienated majesty." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Universities are of course hostile to geniuses, which seeing and using ways of their own, discredit the routine: as churches and monasteries persecute youthful saints." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old heart!-it seems to say,-there is victory yet for all justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And my favorite: "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men--that is genius." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Andrew Bujalski on the art and business of film / Charles Lyons on going for broke / The Puffy Chair / Why Film Production Majors Should Be Replaced by Auto Mechanics / JuneBug, 2046, and Mutual Appreciation / David Chien on Caveh Zahedi's I am a Sex Addict / Donal Foreman on Independent Film / Donal Foreman on the Irish Television and Film Industry / Quotations about the artistic process/ Tarkovsky on film school and trying to please people / Donal Foreman on the State of the Art / Other films and filmmakers / Quiet City / Henry James, Art of Fiction 1 / Henry James, Art of Fiction 2 / Emerson, Circles, 1 / Emerson, Circles, 2 / Avedon on Alfredson / David Ball Interview


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Text Copyright 2004 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.