CREATIVITY AND MADNESS
May 20, 2021 - Joy Reed Belt
“Hallelujah! Santa Fe Creativity and Madness is on.” Thus read the header of an email I received last week. Well, that email got my immediate attention. On a global level creativity and madness have been “on” for centuries. But this email was referring to a series of weeklong workshops, which I have attended several times, that are presented annually in Santa Fe. These workshops, which are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, offer accredited Continuing Education to Physicians, Nurses, Psychologists, Counselors, and Therapists. In my experience, studying the demonstrated link between creativity and madness especially among the subpopulation of writers, poets, musicians, dancers, and visual artists is fascinating. Almost equally as fascinating are the creative and gifted people who attend the conference as either participants or presenters. For instance, there is a psychiatrist from New York who has presented in every session I have attended who is a classically trained pianist with a degree from Julliard. In one session he gave a lecture on Frederic Chopin and mentioned that when Chopin was having a particularly difficult time with his lover, Amantine Dupin, who used the pen name George Sand, was one of the most productive periods of Chopin’s life. Our presenter then walked away from the podium and sat down at the grand piano, placed there for his use, and masterfully played Chopin’s “Polonaise in A.” It was stunning.
Camille Claudel, "The Waltz," 1895 - 1905, Bronze, 5.51 x 9.45 x 13.98 in.
Another year, I was in a breakout group on ethics with the top psychiatrist in the California Prison System which includes both Folsom and San Quentin. In that same group I met a therapist who claimed her specialties were counseling members of the Mafia and providing expert testimony in criminal trials. She said that most of her clients use the name “Guido” in lieu of their real name when making appointments with her. She seems disappointed that none of us had seen her on TV. In another small group, the presenter asked us to think about a figure in popular culture, our “superhero” with which we identified at one point in our lives and the ways that hero continues to influence our lives. My mind immediately went to Loretta Young (1913-2000), She had an anthology drama television series on Sunday nights from 1953 until 1961 for which she received several Emmys and a Golden Globe award. I loved the “Loretta Young Show!” In retrospect that show played an important role in introducing me to the “real world.” Every week Ms. Young would appear on screen in a wonderful gown in a well-designed room and talk to the audience about what we were going to see. As I remember, each program had a theme that dealt with a life situation or moral problem. Those problems were usually resolved one way or another during the episode, but some of the dramas were done serially. After setting up the plot, Ms. Young would dramatically swirl around and enter another door and the drama would begin. My fascination with the Loretta Young show might have been the thing that led me to major in drama in college. I think I believed that all of life’s problems could be solved if one were allowed to act them out. I also learned that it is possible to live many lives during our lifetime. I still believe there is more than one available and desirable role for most of us if we are willing to believe in ourselves and take the necessary risks.
Jim Keffer, "On the Way to Santa Fe," 2019, Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 44 in., $3,800
This year “Creativity and Madness,” invites us to empathize with Vincent Van Gogh as he struggles to maintain his sanity,” And to, “Feel the excitement of Camille Claudel as she becomes Rodin’s student, mistress, and competitor. Know her desperation as she encounters obstacle after obstacle to the recognition of her genius, and her sorrow as she is confined to an asylum for the final years of her life.” How can I not attend?
Back to Blogs