Art As Play: Mimicking The Act Of Creation

Midnight Garden, 2007, by Judith Joseph

Leah Hagar Cohen, writing about Ursula Hegi’s new book in the NY Times Book Review, beautifully describes the creative process of novelists.  As a visual artist, this description speaks to me, as well:

All novelists are godlike. Sovereign creators of worlds they populate with beings wrought from something less than dust and rib, they set events in motion and determine their consequences. The situation is less ideal than it sounds: omnipotence can be a dreary limitation. That’s why the best novelists are also childlike. Bent over impalpable dollhouses, moving their lips while they rearrange the furniture and figures, they give themselves over to such deep play that their stories read less like a premeditated imposition than obedience to the whispered suggestions of the universe.

Ursula Hegi belongs to this second category, and she attends not to a single dollhouse but to an entire imagined village…  One senses in Hegi a willingness to lose herself in play, in the service of play.

The idea of “a willingness to lose [one]self in play, in the service of play” is a useful one for creative people.  We need to get serious about un-seriousness.  There is a dreamy quality to play that Cohen describes so beautifully, it is worth remembering, or indeed, inscribing on the studio walls.  Acting in “obedience to the whispered suggestions of the universe” will remind us that, in our creative acts, we are mirroring the act of Creation.  If we view this not as egomaniacal hyperbole, but rather the humbling knowledge that each of us, in his or her own way, participates in the creation of the world in every moment, it helps us get out of our own way and dance to the tune of the creative song that is within each of us.


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