California State University,
Interview with an Artist
Interview conducted by Ruben Salvador on June 2, 1998,
the Canadian artist Jonathon Earl Bowser:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Do you think there is a connection between your spiritual or
religious self and your own creative process?
They are homologous.
- 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
- 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
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
"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.]