Artistic Promiscuity

Attending a social event yesterday, on the first day of 2016, I should not have been surprised to be asked about whether I had made any new year’s resolutions. I answered that I’d come up with a board game idea that afternoon, so I could say it was to create a new game every day, and I’d have until tomorrow before I was behind schedule.

But really I hadn’t thought too much about it.

On the drive home, I kept coming back to a list of platitudes I’d read on a random Facebook (re-)post. The one that really stuck with me was as follows:

“Be artistically promiscuous.” **

I love this quote, possibly just because it likens art to sex, but also because it demands frequency! Making art is about practice, and being good at art is about doing it over and over again. So frequency is incredibly important! (Do it every day if you can!)

But promiscuity also implies different partners. Different styles of art, (painting, dance, music!) or different styles of the same art (platformers, abstract strategy, puzzles!), it probably doesn’t matter how exactly you interpret this, but variety is incredibly important to an artist, both in variety of artistic output, but also (probably more importantly) variety of input or art that you consume. Promiscuity not only implies different partners, but it could also mean you are indiscriminate about those partners. I like this too, because diversity is important, and you can’t always know what is going to be good before you consume it. Just because that movie got terrible reviews doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with you in some way or another.

If promiscuity is about sexual behavior, in this metaphor, I’ve been (so far) assuming art is the act itself, or possibly the offspring produced. But you could also imagine this quote to be about art as the sexual partner. This is great, because then you get to personify making art, and fall in love with it, or rather, best not to fall in love with it, because you are just going to be making another piece of art tomorrow!

Whether it’s making or consuming art, I want to be doing more of it in 2016, and in greater variety. I don’t know if this is even possible, but I’m sure going to try.

** I turned to google to find attribution for this quote, and as near as I can tell it originated with the complete list as I read it on Facebook, by Valerie Curtis-Newton, and was written sometime in 2015.

2 thoughts on “Artistic Promiscuity

  1. Hi.

    I’m pretty thrilled to see that something I wrote landed with you. My theatre students love to “fall in love” with their first impulses. I wanted to help them avoid a scarcity mentality. The phrase “be artistically promiscuous” was my way of helping them see that there are many more impulses to explore.

    I love the way you unpacked the phrase and will share your writing with them.


  2. Hi Valerie! Thanks for leaving some additional context around this phrase. It’s quite a different perspective also, so I’m doubly thrilled to see your comment!

    I think it’s so important to attack a project / piece of art / problem from different perspectives. It’s possible for your first instinct to be the “best” one (if there is even such a thing!), but it’s far better to have some evidence of that quality by thinking up a dozen other ideas and choosing that first one as the best (perhaps later, in editing, or on the cutting room floor), rather than picking that first idea by default.

    When Allen Ginsberg said “First thought, best thought,” he was teaching automatic writing, which is (again) about practice. Make specific types of artistic choices enough times and you will not have to think too much about them. Lack of thought can also lead to more creative choices! But again it’s worth stressing variety (diversity, creativity) of choices is one important thing to strive for.

    Anyway, thanks again! Best wishes in 2016!

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