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by Paul
Henrickson, Ph.D. ©2004

tm. © 2007

I should comment that I find this a rather

pretentious title, but it does say what it is
intended to say, and, perhaps, just a little bit

Even a banal reference to what nearly every

busy housewife could have heard about such
as a writer’s block could start us off on a path
of discovery from which we might never return
unchanged. A corollary to this thought is that
it is everyone’s obligation to change, develop,
or emerge and that being so, the morality of it
lies in how the individual charts the course.

But there is something more possible than this

in the following anecdote: a curious pubescent
boy of eleven, the kind that smell a little, pick
their noses and do not curb their tongues for
long was venting his curiosity, and that is all it
was really, in the tool shed when, by accident,
a stack of used but not emptied paint cans
toppled and three, whose covers had not been
very secured, opened as they fell.

Well, one might imagine the result. Instead of

a range of brownish grays of ageing wood and
somewhat dull and rusted metal attachments
the dark interior of the shed suddenly burst
into color. It was clear to him that this was not
what his parents had had in mind when they
stored these things here and he knew it was
impossible for him to hide this catastrophe.

The boy was resourceful however and so he

energetically open all the other half-empty
cans of paint and after a few hours he had
painted the entire collection of tools so that
there were now wooden handles of red, blue,
green, yellow and pink and now, as he
explained all this to his parents, “ you need
only to remember that a rake is blue and a
shovel is red and the wheel barrel is a bright

He waited apprehensively for the explosion of

rejection and promises of punishment and saw
endless hours using turpentine to clean off
“the mess”. Fortunately his parents saw the
fruitlessness of that approach and decided to
live with this “experiment in creativity”. They
flexibly decided to turn the accident into a
project and soon the entire community had
tool sheds containing brightly colored tools
and there as an element of contentment
throughout the community because some of
the frustration of negotiating life between
dawn and dusk had been liberated

In part, this is what is meant by creative

solutions arising out of chaotic circumstances.
The mind strives for a balance while, at other
times, it also tests the limits of that balance to
see how much more complex he might make it
and it is the exercise of this ability which an
artist uses in his never-ending search for
appropriately meaningful signs.
This is what the experience of engaging in the
creation of these protocols was intended to do.
While, on one hand, they may be seen as
finished works of art, they were not initially
intended to be finished works, but only steps
in the direction of a more openly receptive
awareness of potential. The process is
ongoing, rewarding and addictive.

In regard to a product being an accidental work

of art, or a work of art accidentally, there are
two examples which might serve to broaden
our understanding. One of these is
Michelangelo’s “slave” and the other is a
construction by Carl Nesjar.
Michaelangelo: “Slave”

Nesjar,Carl: Ice Sculpture

and an other ice sculpture by Carl Nesjar both of which raise

the questions of creative accident, permanence and creative
intent. Certainly Nesjar’s work achieves much more on the
measure of timeliness than the work of most artists and very
nearly moots the question of the creative contributions of
Giacomo Balla and Marcel Duchamp.

Nesjar,Carl: Ice Sculpture

Nesjar has followed through with his

investigations into the accidents of occurrence,
Michelangelo who had, we suppose, no control
over the whims of the Pope who kept shifting
his assignments from sculpture to painting
may not have reflected upon the very
informative image to which we are heir, but
one Michelangelo probably had never
intended. Because of the interpretation we
place upon the “slave” we become
conspirators, with Michelangelo, [but without
his active awareness], in the meaning the work
has for us. An interesting experiment might be
to take a computer generated image of what
Michelangelo’s “Slave” might have looked like
if completed and the way it looks now and test
a contemporary audience on the differences in
perception, if any, they evoke. What I am
attempting to point out is that the meaning of
a work of art does not inherently exist in the
work itself but is, largely, a product of the
complex organization of the person perceiving
it. In this regard per haps Agnes Martin was
correct when she was quoted as saying “what
you see in my work is what you see.” The
statement, as it reads, is off-putting and I
would have preferred her to be less laconic and
rather much more verbal. As the statement
stands we really have little evidence of her
A work by
N.b.: As I have said elsewhere an artist, more often and
Agnes Martin.
perhaps more deeply, reveals who he is in everything he does which
is one of the reasons why I believe Paul Brach to be overly rewarded

There is some meaning in the adage that

beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I
dislike the adage because it seems to negate
the insightful contributions, if there are any,
of the producer.

Now, however, that is only one end of the

process…the generative end. The other end,
the receptor-audience end is also a highly
complex matter and, in a sense, much more
difficult to analyze. It is also, sometimes, much
more surprising.
If a man watching a parade of marching
musicians suddenly straightens his shoulders
and lifts his chin, his wife starts smiling
broadly, and their child excitedly lurches out
into the street and wildly joins the multitude of
uniformed legs and mockingly swings his arms
we are witnessing evidence of aesthetic
messaging. It is the artistic communication in
process, but on a very elementary level.

And politicians know it is a valuable tool of

social control.

But it is the cultivation of these sensibilities,

under the sensitive control of the individual,
which is the focus of aesthetic education. It is
a very tender plant and one that can be a joy
to have around and it is one, as well, that is
under constant threat from a mindset that is
intolerant of personal divergence. All of us
have seen, quite probably, incidence of where
one child in a larger group seems to be
selected as the acceptable victim for all the
group’s largely imagined sense of propriety.

“If you are not one of us you are a threat, or a

freak and we will destroy you”

Such a view, which invites a mass devotion to

some single concept, also benefits the agenda
of the bully who, often silently, spreads the
idea that if there are any more heresies hiding
around similar group reprisals will be enacted.
It is, I believe, historically understandable that
groups have learned this technique as a means
of keeping itself together and viable as a
group. However, it also has the unfortunate
effect of curtailing beneficial divergent
behavior which the group may need in order to
maintain its developing process. Consequently
we have this profile of a constant flow of
energies, a breathing in and a breathing out,
expansion and contraction, a conservative
posture and a liberal curiosity. It consequently
would seem to me that a governing entity
might wisely create a system whereby both
these organic responses to stimulus are
maintained in alternating balance so that the
benefit of each might be less traumatically
integrated than they are in some societies
where the points of view of one group are
immediately trounced by another as soon as
there is a major power change. I think we
might try to describe this process as managed

The protocols, in the context of art, are

intended to instigate some imbalance simply in
order to discover what the solutions to this
chaos might be and thereby enrich the
vocabulary of visual communication.
By way of contrasting a point of view I was
recently informed by two colleagues concerned
about art that one deputy in the Italian
parliament made the comment that the
individual commissioned to make a copy of an
original work also produces an original work. I
imagine that the three of us were equally
saddened and de-energized by that sophistry.

One of the situations that came to mind was

the anecdote that had originated, I believe, in
ancient Rome about a collector of bronze works
who had been boasting of his latest purchase
was questioned by another as to how he cold
be sure that his purchase was an original
Corinthian bronze. The collector’s reply was
that he was, of course, absolutely certain it
was an original Corinthian bronze since the
name of the man from who he had purchased it
was Corinthus.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, which prides itself on

being the third largest “art center” in the
United States, a reputation possibly correct
only in term of the amount of tax revenue
generated by the art sales which take place
and then, that figure rests only on the
definition used to identify what is art.

In the same locality there are several highly

prominent art dealers who have been very
economically successful not one of whom has
given any evidence that they understand what
art is or that they care to. One might
appreciate, however, the honesty of one of
them (Forrest Fenn) who stated that it made
no difference to him whether he sold plumbing
or works of art. (In other areas of his professional
life his honesty has been questioned.) But such
attitudes do, regretfully, dominate and more
careful analysis of the art product and
evaluation of its production is often dismissed
as boring, irrelevant and unnecessary.
Contrary-wise, however, it is in exactly this
careful and painstaking procedure of analyzing
the nature of the product and evaluating its
affect upon us that the real value of the work
emerges. It is of less importance that people
agree on the value of a work of art than that
they engage in trying to communicate the
significance of that value. It is in the sharing of
observations about a work of art that the value
of that work is uncovered.

In an environment that seems to be

increasingly and varyingly in flux it would
seem to be an important characteristic of
human behavior that open-ended
experimentation is sought and valued as one
way in which, as a community, mankind might
come to, at least, a symbolic understanding of
where and who he is.

This interpretation seems historically

consistent with those historians and critics
have placed on such earlier periods of art
production such as the renaissance, classical
Greece and the paintings of Lascaux and

Paul Henrickson,