Two Thoughts on Creativity

Mary E. Martin
Nov 4, 2014 2:24AM


Just recently, I was browsing through two photograph collections. The first, by Norma Quintana, is in a book entitled Circus: A Travelling Life and is reviewed in  Slate by Jordan G Teicher.

The second, is in an article by Priscilla Frank in the Huffington Post discussing the photographs from the "Casa Susanna: A Photographic Archive from the Collection of Robert Swope and Michel Hurst

In the first photograph, the man is a member of the Circus Chimera. In the second, The man is a visitor at Casa Susanna.

The article about the photographs from Circus Chimera quotes the photographer,  Norma Quintana and her obsession with her subject matter.

“If I could drive to see them, I’d spend a couple of nights. I dreamt of having my own trailer, but usually I’d leave when the lights would go down. I did it even when my kids were little. My family thought I’d lost my mind.”

That led me to thinking about the obsession necessary to be a circus performer or photographer…in fact any artist of any kind.

Then I turned to the photographs of the people who visited Casa Susanna during the 1940’s and 1950’s. All of them were men who wished to cross dress as women. Definitely, these are not pictures of drag queens. This is something different—men wanting to create and project the idea of the ideal woman. One source is quoted:

"The photos are notable because they are not garish or bawdy; these are not drag queens, simply men enjoying the freedom to explore sides of themselves normally locked up tight."

It was suggested that they didn’t want to be women but merely wanted to be relieved of the responsibilities that came with the notion of masculinity. But most of all, they wanted to explore the fluidity of their identities.  

I wonder about these two qualities of mind. Obsessiveness and fluidity which seem to be distinctly different if not opposing qualities.

Do you have to be obsessed or possessed with an idea, image or feeling in order to create something new?

Can you create something new without that sense of fluidity—the willingness to depart from the so-called  norms and explore?

 My sense is that these two qualities might just be central to the ability to create

Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies. The first, The Osgoode Trilogy was inspired by her many years of law practice. The Trilogy of Remembrance is about Britain's finest landscape painter, Alexander Wainwright, and his unending search for his "light". Thus her fascination with creativity.

Mary E. Martin