This has been a week filled with reminders about the importance of pursuing one’s own vision, of being a contrarian.
Last weekend, I had an O’Keeffe immersion day. After visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museumin Santa Fe, I toured O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, photographed Plaza Blanca (which she frequently painted) for the third time in a week, stopped at the Chama Riveroverlook she made famous, and made my way on to Ghost Ranch. I had done all of these except for the house tour before, but never in the same day. It offered a unique insight into her work, and standing in her studio, looking out over the Chama River Valley, was an experience I will never forget.
O’Keeffe did things differently—not just in the way she painted, but also in the way she chose to live her life and the place she chose to do so. I was especially struck by this quote, which was posted in the museum in Santa Fe:
"There are things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me—shapes and ideas so near to me—so natural to my way of being and thinking…I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.”
Georgia O’Keeffe, 1974
When I returned home Tuesday evening after 12 days on the road, the most I could do was curl up on the sofa and watch a movie. Before I landed on Amelie(a delightfully charming example of different, if ever there was one), I tuned in to part of the Picasso series on the National Geographic Channel. There was a scene in which Pablo was studying at the Academy of Arts and his professor chastised him for not following the classic rules of painting and for wasting his talent. Picasso responded that he did not see the subject that way and, in great frustration, left (or was asked to leave) the Academy.
On a more personal note, one of my uncles died at the age of 89 this week. He had a good, full life and pursued many passions. An astute businessman, he was known as a contrarian. He did things differently, often under the critical eye of others in his industry. But he, along with his business partners, had a vision that was not only successful but a game-changer for that industry.
Creativity is about coming up with something new and unique, about doing things differently, sometimes being contrarian. But being different just for the sake of being different isn’t enough. There must also be a vision or purpose—to create something useful, valuable, meaningful, beautiful or otherwise significant in some way. The challenge, of course, is that we can’t always envision the outcome of others’ creative ways. And that's where doubt and criticism often come into play.
What have you done differently in your life? How did others respond or react to your actions and ideas? If less than supportive, were you able to move forward with those ideas anyway?