are we in ultimate control of our own artistic impulses?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In just a few hours, I'll be on the Bryn Mawr campus with my dear friend Cynthia Reeves and her students to talk about Handling the Truth, Flow, the empathetic imagination, the past and the present and—well—I have far too much planned for the hour and twenty minutes we have, but I guess that is who I have become. Persistent. Insistent. Still wrecked and unreasonable with the impossibility of it all.

But this one One Thing Stolen thing before I go. The novel, due out shortly, is, as I have written here on Huffington Post, about a neurodegenerative disease—about the slow peeling away of my Nadia's language and historical self. Nadia, in One Thing Stolen, becomes trapped in a cycle of art making. She cannot stop herself.

A few weeks ago, Taylor Norman, a young and wondrously talented editor at Chronicle Books, took the time to send me this true story of a former lawyer whose traumatic brain injury resulted in the emergence of an unexpected artistic talent. This is art arising from injury and not disease. But it is, in so many ways, a story that yields insights into Nadia and into the question: Are we are in ultimate control over our artistic leanings, aesthetics, impulses? Can we definitively source the many ways that story, color, and shape erupt in us?

I would wager that we aren't, and that we can't.

From the story that Taylor sent that first appeared in the NY Daily News:

Doctors diagnosed Fagerberg with a traumatic brain injury. He suffered memory loss and had problems with processing language.

The accident ended his legal career. To cope, he turned to art therapy - and suddenly realized that he had a particular gift for painting.

"A little trigger went off and I became hooked. It became a compulsion," Fagerberg told KHOU, adding: "I see everything sort of in composition, so everywhere I look it's a painting."

The whole story, and a video, can be found here.


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