California State University, Northridge

Interview with an Artist

Interview conducted by Ruben Salvador on June 2, 1998,
with the Canadian artist Jonathon Earl Bowser:

  1. Do you percieve yourself as creative? Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? And what role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
    Yes, I am creative. It may be debatable whether I am creating anything of value, but I am definitely making something new, pulling a vision from the ether. The visions that come to me are my own, influenced by nothing more than my own biology. I have read much of the writings by Jung and Campbell, and this has been very interesting reading. They have not influenced me, but rather given me a scholarly context in which to view my work. They have helped me to understand that the real influence is ancient beyond reckoning. Society has an effect on the work; one cannot entirely escape the influence of fashion, and my work is modern in this sense. My work is about beauty, and demonstrates a modern aesthetic. But what beauty means is a question that transcends fashion, and is thus impervious to superficial cultural influences.

  2. What motivates your creative ideas and creative activity? What role do you think emotions play in your creative process?
    I believe that the universe is about something, and will whisper clues about its function to the sensitive. Each painting becomes a process of discovery, an exploration in the history of spiritual thought, and of my own unconscious existence. I approach my work in an intellectual way, over-rationalizing it many would say. But I feel very deeply for these works. I must fall deeply in love with the figure in each painting; if I do not, it will certainly fail.

  3. When engaged in a creative activity, do you usually have specific goals? Do you aim your creative efforts at certain groups of people? Do you have any concerns that people may see your work differently from the way you regard it?
    I always have a very specific goal, an interpretation of something deep and hidden - like a memory that won't quite rise into the light of conscious cognition. People will always interpret things differently - Plato's cavemen arguing over what they see in the shadows on the wall. I have an apprehension of what my work is, but I know there is much I do not know. Art is what happens between a thing created and the observer; what I think about it is probably not that important, except as a useful tool in the creative process.

  4. As a creative individual, do you believe that you perceive the world differently from other people? Do you think that any "unusual" thought process are involved when you create something?
    I believe the entire universe is made of Magic - something unknown, mysterious, transcendent. What are quarks made of? What is gravity made of? What is light made of? The predictive powers of science are powerful indeed, but we know nothing of the essential nature of the cosmos. I know that I know nothing. Is that Socratic epiphany abundant? It is not - and thank goodness. Philosophy won't keep your house warm in the winter.

  5. Do you think there is a connection between your spiritual or religious self and your own creative process?
    They are homologous.

  6. Do you believe that creativity and genius go hand in hand? What do you think about the commonly-held notion that creativity is linked to madness?
    I like to believe there are levels of creativity, like levels of genius. It seems too exclusive to require that genius and creativity be synonymous. There is simple creativity, which most can aspire to. And there is transcendent creativity, which simply exists - pure being, a force of nature. Creativity and madness? No. Genius and madness? Definitely. There are just too few of them to consider them normal in any context. They are different, something other, supra-human. And what is madness?

  7. What benefits or problems might we expect with the cloning of highly creative individuals? Please finish this sentence: "It would be best if ___% of the world's population were highly creative because..."
    I expect humanity will be highly dissappointed with cloning. Potential has to be in perfect accord with experience to produce genius. And the ethereal, noumenal nature of Truth makes the manufacture of such accord impossible. Cloning might make smart people - which is better than dumb people - but it won't make geniuses.

    "It would be best if 10% of the world's population were highly creative because 40% have to carry the bricks, 30% have to quarry the bricks, and 20% have to co-ordinate their actions; it only takes 10% to figure out what the building is going to look like."

For additional interviews with creative people, visit the Home Pages of students in this course. [Click on the names that appear on the "Definitions by Students" page.]