A painter, cartoonist, and writer, among other disciplines, Lynda Barry served as an artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin last year, and is now an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity.
“I make my husband call me [Professor Barry],” she joked in an NPR interview.
“I tried to get my dogs to call me Professor Barry, but they have trouble with P’s.”
She commented on thinking about how people “have given up on the arts totally. But if they’re with a baby or with a toddler, most of them will sing, dance, make sculptures that you knock down, draw, tell stories, all these things that we call the arts. They’ll do that with a kid.
“And which is sort of interesting. And then I like to ask people why do you think that is, and one of the things they often say is because babies aren’t judgmental.
“Well yeah they are. You can wear the wrong shirt, and they’ll lose their minds.”
She points to a critical shift in our teen years, when so many of us shut down experiencing creativity as play, or a “legitimate” way to use our time and talents, and slow down exploring how to be more creative.
“So something seems to happen at about adolescence or right at the beginning, where the thing that we call the arts, so let’s talk about a drawing, it’s a place for an experience for a kid. You know, when they’re drawing, they have a thing that they do when they approach a piece of paper that’s very different than when an adult approaches a piece of paper to make a picture.
“And I think the thing I’ve been able to narrow it down to is that there’s this point when that piece of paper, which was a place where an experience turns into a thing, that’s either a good or a bad picture. And so many people tell me the stories of – they can remember exactly when that happened.”
From Looking Ahead To The Future Of Cartoons And Creativity – which includes her audio interview.
The image above is for her course at the University of Wisconsin “The Unthinkable Mind” (Spring 2013).
The description on the page includes: “No artistic talent is required to be part of this class, but students must have an active interest in learning about the physical structure of the brain, how memory, metaphor, pictures and stories work together, the relationship between our hands and thinking, and what the biological function of the thing we call ‘the arts’ may be.”
Why do we make art?
In one of her books, Barry addresses sensitivity, why we create, and the power of fairytales.
“There are certain children who are told they are too sensitive, and there are certain adults who believe sensitivity is a problem that can be fixed in the way that crooked teeth can be fixed and made straight. And when these two come together you get a fairytale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it.
“I believe there is something in these old stories that does what singing does to words. They have transformational capabilities, in the way melody can transform mood. They can’t transform your actual situation, but they can transform your experience of it.
“We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay. I believe we have always done this, used images to stand and understand what otherwise would be intolerable.”
Lynda Barry in her book What It Is.
[Image of quote “We don’t create…” from www.thequotefactory.com]
As described on her Amazon.com author page, “Lynda Barry has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator and teacher and found they are very much alike. She is the inimitable creator behind the seminal comic strip that was syndicated across North America in alternative weeklies for two decades, Ernie Pook’s Comeek…
“An Illustrated Novel, Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies!, The Good Times are Killing Me was adapted as an off-Broadway play and won the Washington State Governor’s Award. Her bestselling and acclaimed creative writing-how to-graphic novel for Drawn & Quarterly, What It Is, won the Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Graphic Novel and R.R. Donnelly Award for highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author.”
Lynda Barry page at the Arts Institute – University of Wisconsin site
Her newest book: The Freddie Stories
Read quotes by and about other artists in my post: Multitalented creative people.
Do you recall a time when your creative expression started being shut down?