The Art Inside

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Michelangelo’s Pieta

In his youth, he’d read a quote attributed to Michelangelo. The artist had answered the question of how he’d sculpted his masterpiece by saying he hadn’t sculpted anything at all. He had only chipped away enough stone to reveal the sculpture inside.

The quote stayed with him. The Grand Canyon, too, was a beautiful thing that had always been there, waiting for the river to uncover it. To remove enough earth to reveal the sculpture inside.

The quote might explain why certain pieces of music had such power. They had not been created. They had always been there, waiting to be played. Music was just mathematics. Frequencies, vibrations, waves. A relationship of numbers described by sound. The relationship isn’t created. It exists. It only needs to be uncovered.

He sat down at his desk with a sheet of paper. It was of the highest quality – a smooth finish, minimal feathering, high opacity. Surely there were beautiful words somewhere inside, waiting to be released.

* * *

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110 thoughts on “The Art Inside

  1. I’m glad for this Walt — have been thinking similar, how it’s funny, ironic, how much of it is reduction or leaving out. Had some insights along similar lines visiting Rossalyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, with all its masonry work and faces in the ceiling. Out front, they have a few blocks of stone on display to show how the process works, how the mason starts by imagining what’s inside and then slowly grinds it out. Very similar to writing I think, and music, all of it. People too, maybe, and what you see in them. Just mind the rasp with the faces.

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    • In the original version of this, the last sentence had the guy tearing the sheet in half, expecting something to be inside. Then I wrote a longer ending where he very carefully put his thumbnails in the corner and peeled the sheet in half, looking for the words inside, but found nothing. I deleted both. A better analogy might be a massive word dump, followed by sifting and excision. Or as you said, reduction. Interesting thought about people, too. Thanks, Bill.

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  2. Every evening, as I slog home, spewed from the bus like a disliked “Pez’, I pass a McDonald’s, and two art galleries, one of the galleries features Inuit Sculpture- always found it cool how they find the spirit of the carving and free it, never go in, just do the moist nose thing on glass- great post thanks, Walt.

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  3. This is wonderfully written, Walt . It’s an enigmatic and strangely hopeful idea, that it’s all out there, just needing to be captured. I often have the notion, that there is a ‘big’ idea, on the very cusp of my own brain – I scrabble for it and that only serves to nudge it out of reach. But the hope is there, that one day I’ll capture it, that it’s waiting for me to find. Instead, of course, I spend every day in front of the laptop, chiselling, hardly exposing anything of merit. Ah, well. Where’s my lump hammer?

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    • Thanks, Lynn! My strategy has often been to rack my brain for the right words as I go, sometimes before I even start. The more I think about it, the better I think it is to just do a massive word dump and trust yourself to find the right ones as you sort through the rubble. Kind of like you said… Permission to write crap? granted!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, whatever your method you’re doing something right. I try not to brain dump so much these days, as I did that with my first book and it’s taken me so long to bash it into something approaching respectable. But I do love a rewrite – how much you can improve a first draft with added colour or detail, or by deleting whole lines or paragraphs. That’s the moment when the craft of it seems to really shine, that’s the moment you get out your figurative buffer and make the whole thing shimmer.
        Lovely, Walt, and always a pleasure to read your work.
        BTW how’s the novel coming? Loved that snippet a while back.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the rewriting is just oh so critical, and it really is akin to sculpting and polishing, smoothing out the edges. It’s an art and a craft all of it’s own, and it would take years to master it. Just knowing what to keep, what to get rid, of what to tweak.

        It’s coming along, but very slowly. Thanks for asking, and for reading. I appreciate the feedback, Lynn.


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  7. Officially most amazing thing I’ve ever read. You completely transferred your thoughts to words, I’m still struggling with that but your amazing at it… you’ve captured all these ideas and just compactly laid them out… It’s amazing…

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  10. It is great to take a blank paper and fill it with words. Words that tantalize’s the physical senses that pull us into the story. Creation of emotion without the e. It is a great pleasure to read your works

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  12. This idea can really be applied to mostly everything. I tend to be a believer in that everyone has some good in them, and that our environment impacts us greatly to sometimes be worse people. But I think it is human nature to always have some kind of a moral compass inside of us. I know that’s less about art and more about philosophic matters, but I couldn’t help but tie it into that.
    The last bit about writing especially left an impact on me. Such a nice, simple, yet powerful post.

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  21. That’s wonderfully written Walt… Really enjoyed it… Came across your blog in a random search for new and fresh content…. And I think I’m going to follow your work now 🙂 do visit my site and look through my articles to see if you find something interesting…and stick around for more if you like what you read!

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  23. This inspires me. It makes the world seem a little less impossible, like the answers to all your questions are out there, but have yet to reveal themselves…this being a thought that can help us all to stay sane.

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    • Glad you are inspired, I think they are out there, the answers. You have to look for them, and sometimes they are hard to find, but they are there, waiting to be found. Think about them, and then stop thinking about them. Make them think you don’t care anymore. You might trick them into revealing themselves. 🙂


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  25. This is nowhere more apparent than in mathematics .Who can argue math isn’t beautiful with all its intricacies and depth ? But math is just a representation of the truth . The beauty was always there , it just has to be discovered .


    • Well said. I bet you could speak eloquently and inspirationally about math. I’m not able to do that as I don’t have a head for math, but I appreciate those who do, and am kind of in awe of them. Thank you, good sir.


  26. Art does feel like this, and so does life. There’s a canvas/page/block of stone waiting for our engagement, so that we become co-creative partners in the art of a lifetime. Thank you for this – so inspiring!


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  29. I’m most aware that I’m one of the many who found this piece very inspiring and deep but I cannot not add my admiration! Such a profound description of an already existing creation waiting to be born (I don’t know why but my mind is taking me to a place where I can compare this to a child in a mother’s womb, maybe because I’m a mother!) in a few but very meaningful words! Art, poetry, music etc … superb … thank you for the great read! BTW … I’ve always been fascinated by Michelangelo’s Pieta’ and all the mysterious messages that lurk behind the sculpture … thanks for reminding me of this, also!


    • The Pieta is incredibly powerful. I had the good fortune to see it once, and even though I had to bounce up and down over other people’s shoulders, and it was behind bulletproof glass, it was absolutely magnificent. Never seen anything like it before or since. Although now that I say that, the Sistine Chapel was quite something, too. Sometimes art is so good it can change you.


      • You’re definitely right! It surely is, as is the Sistine Chapel! I too have had the unique opportunity of witnessing their splendour in person! And, I must totally agree with what you’re saying .. art does have the great capability of being able to change you and your perspective! Coincidentally, most recently, I stumbled across a very interesting documentary focusing on the unorthodox messages that Michelangelo might have hidden behind these works … it’s amazing when you come to think of it!


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