My Creative Life

Shelley Smoler on why she loves instructional, autobiographical and multi-dimensional art

The chief creative officer at Droga5 shares her views of the world and the inspirations that see her through

By Shelley Smoler

Yoko Ono, Grapefruit

Yoko Ono's book entitled Grapefruit is one of my all-time favourites and always a great source of inspiration. It's a whimsical, delightful and subversive book of instructions for both art and life.

Each page offers conceptual direction for work yet to be created. Yoko Ono once described how, during the aftermath of the heavy bombing of Tokyo during World War II, Ono's brother was depressed and hungry. Her solution was to turn to their imaginations. "I said, 'OK, let's make a menu together. What kind of dinner would you like?' And, he said, 'Ice cream.' So, I said, 'Good, let's imagine our ice cream dinner.' And, we did, and he started to look happy. So, I realised even then that just through imagining, we can be happy. So we had our conceptual dinner and this is maybe my first piece of art."

With instructions like "Listen to the sound of the earth turning", "Make music only with overtones", or "Throw a stone into the sky high enough so it will not come back", this book constantly reminds me about the power of imagination and lateral thought.

The Fabelmans

The other night I watched The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiography paying tribute to Steph Spielberg's love for films from when he was only a young boy. Is it the best movie I've ever seen? Probably not, but it was certainly enjoyable.

And it reminded me why I love the art of filmmaking. It had a beautiful quote that I remembered long after the film. A director (meant as David Lynch) asks the hero to look at some paintings and tell him what he likes about them. He then tells him that 'when the horizon line is at the bottom, it's interesting; when it's at the top, it's interesting, but when it's in the middle, it's boring as f^&*k". That's so true, and how a simple change in perspective can elevate something to a whole new level.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn

An artist that I really admire is Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Quinn adapts the medium of collage by translating it into a cohesive two-dimensional visual feast. He collects images from mass media that call out to him, divesting them of their original cultural context and repurposing them in a purely aesthetic manner. Quinn then uses these visual snippets to bring imagined visions of his past and present into physical existence in his studio. Using oil paint, charcoal, gouache, oil stick, and pastel, he meticulously re-creates details and facial features from these found images, covering parts of the composition as he works. We all knowingly or unknowingly use influences from culture and stuff we've consumed in our work.

Each of us is a cacophony of experience. Not just a seamless self.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn

Shelley Smoler is the Chief Creative Officer at Droga5


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