Sunday, March 21, 2010

On muses...#1

I'm thinking about muses. You know, the nine Greek Goddesses who inspired the creation of literature and the arts: Clio, Thalia, Calliope, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Urania and Terpsichore.
More specifically, I'm thinking about modern day incarnations of the muse. 
At some point between Ancient Greek and contemporary times, the muse morphed from being an invisible, spiritual deity into a living, breathing (mortal) seductress. 
Take Pablo Picasso as an example. He famously anointed each woman he loved, and who became his subject, as his muse. 
Here in Australia during the 1930s, '40s and '50s, the art fraternity appeared willing to share one's muse. Sir Sydney Nolan and Albert Tucker both claimed arts patron Sunday Reed as their muse, an arrangement she, apparently, also found most agreeable.
But there was one 20th Century dude I can think of, Jim Morrison (he of The Doors), who harked back to the Classical world and said his musical inspiration was fed by the spirits. 
Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung wrote that the muse represents the male's anima: "Immortal". She is "disguised under the many names we give to creative impulses and ideas."
Francine Prose (so aptly named) laid out the purpose of the modern muse in her book The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and Artists they Inspired.
"Artists rarely create for the Muse, to win or keep the Muse's love and admiration, but rather for themselves, for the world, and for the more inchoate and unquantifiable imperatives of art itself. Their muses are merely the instruments that raise the emotional and erotic temperature high enough, churn up the weather in a way that may speed and facilitate the artist's labors."
Which brings me to ask:
How to invoke the muse? What's the difference between a muse and someone whose influence in some way shapes your craft? And why, in the age of all things supposedly being equal, is the muse still typically female? Who can we women creatives call upon for inspiration in the absence of the male muse?
And well may you ask - who cares? 
Creatives care, because inspiration and motivation is the fuel that keeps the writer / poet / artist powering through to complete their work. And if we don't know where the fuel comes from, we can't get more when we run out.
So bear with me while I keep musing on the muse...there's a work of fiction within that's reliant upon a long and steady supply of fuel.

*Apollo and the Muses (above), Simon Vouet, c. 1640

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