A muse… is a muse… is a muse…to paraphrase the lady of prose-poem Gertrude Stein in her work Sacred Emily. I’m going to go out on a limb here, albeit just a few inches on that limb, and say Ms. Stein defiantly had a muse in the name of one called Alice B. Toklas.
You would be hard pressed to show me an artist or a creative type that didn’t have a muse. But what exactly is a muse? Well it’s…
- A guiding spirit.
- A source of inspiration.
- A person, place or thing.
- An antagonist
Do you need a muse? Well…if you want to be in the great company of the world’s most talented people, you’ll find one. You can’t necessarily pick one, they often pick you. It’s something that just evolves in your life and you may not even recognize you have one for years. Often they in the background stimulating you until one day you have an epiphany and they become real. Your own real muse then becomes an even more profound catalyst to inspirations and creativity.
Muses that enliven…On the hot list of muses that inspire most…women take the poll position. Consider George Sand and the impact she’s had on the composer Frederick Chopin. Fascinating reading if you care to delve into their tumultuous lives. But no one would argue that she was his principal muse.
Fanny Brawne had a profound impact on the poet Keats. Unfortunately Keats died young, and never completly had the opportunity to fulfill the inspirations that were given to him by Fanny and the great love they shared.
On the more obvious side of muses, Victorine (Olympia) for Manet, Kiki for Man Ray, Gala for Dali, and Charis & Weston.
So can a male artist have a man as a muse? Well that immediately leads us to the complicated relationship of Francis Bacon and George Dyer. Dyer was certainly a muse but a little psychotic & often destructive; creating love, hate and inspiration within minutes of each other.
What about a female artist and the male muse? I vote Stieglitz for Georgia O’Keefe. This one is tougher to define. Stieglitz defiantly created notoriety for O’Keefe and without him she may not have become as well-known. This is a situation where Stieglitz might have been more of a task master & promoter than a true muse, but they shared love and tremendous creativity in both of their artistic disciplines.
When a man loves a woman and a woman loves a man…and they both are blessed with phenomenal artistic talent. The power couple goes to… Diego Rivera & Frieda Kahlo. Watch the move Frieda. It’s reasonably accurate.
The number 1 & 2 of all muses…
1. Good old Mother Nature…more art, more poetry, more writing, more music and more just plain old creativity has been inspired by nature. Visually, poetically and even auditorily. Just think of the breeze rustling through the trees…or as the song goes the Autumn Leaves composed by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacque Prevert. This is the muse of nature in one of her finest hours. Lady Nature is the queen of the muses. Godly inspiration for every living thing. Even animals will stop and reflect on the beauty of the day. Even the most cynical person on the planet will lose their composure in front of a brilliant sunrise or sunset. Thank God for nature!
Substances…personally I think this is the bottom rung of the world of muses. If you have to jack yourself up, down or sideways to get inspiration, I think something’s missing. But I for one know, many examples of great writing and thinking that have percolated out of the minds of the inebriated. Love him or hate him Edgar Allen Poe knew how to engage after some “recreation”. Jazz would never have become jazz without a little smoke in the air. To get there, I mean to get there creatively, you can’t discount the wonderful effects of booze…of all flavors. From Absinthe to Tokay or MD2020 there’s a lot of inspiration and creative outpouring that comes from a glass of the “elixir of life”.
Do muses even know they are muses? In my opinion…some do, but most don’t. A muse is so incredibly personal to the creative mind, triggering every emotion that one can have. Good, bad, and in some cases ugly. The right muse can make you razor sharp and mellifluous at the same time, giving birth to profound creativity. Muses are most personal and often can be confusing to the nonconforming spirit.
“A muse…to each his own.” ~ R. J.
“Dear unfeigned muse…Do not un-a-muse me.” ~ R. J.