TRANSCRIPT 227: How Artists Represent Feelings


Speaker 1:
It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place podcast, an art world inside a podcast for artists by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the arts.

And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman:
Well, hey there my friend. It’s Miriam Schulman here, your curator of Inspiration, and I’m bringing you a roundup from the Artpreneur Flash Briefings for the week.

Have you found them on Alexa or even Spotify yet? I just want you to imagine getting inspired each morning before you start the day. If you want to get them on Alexa, obviously it’s easiest if you have one of those devices, but if you don’t, you can download the LEXI app on your phone, totally free.

What you need to do is go onto Amazon, search for Artpreneur. You will see that the book is there. It’s ready for pre-order, but what you’ll want to do is search for skills and then you’ll see the Artpreneur skill and select enable. Alternatively, the Artpreneur Flash Briefings are available on Spotify or wherever you happen to listen to Flash Briefings if you found them someplace else. On Spotify, you’ll need to follow Artpreneur in order to get them, or you can just wait till Fridays like you’re doing today.

Miriam Schulman:
All right, now on with the show.

Miriam Schulman:
Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama became obsessed with creating intricate polka dot art to the point of obsession. Kusama had been very, or has been, she’s alive, has been very open about her lifelong struggle with mental illness and credits her art with giving her an outlet for her obsessiveness. She first emerged on the avant garde scene in 1968, and her art has gone in and out of fashion.

Now, well into her 90s, her polka dot sculptural installations attract millions in the most prestigious venues all around the world. She is one of the many artists that I feature in my forthcoming book, Artpreneur, which, yes, you can get at There’s a lot of pre-order goodies waiting for you, which you can find out about over there. You’ll learn about Kusama in chapter six when I discuss, Embrace Your Inner Weirdo, when I talk about creating an authentic, yet marketable style.

Today we’re talking about art because she uses her art to confront anxiety. And since this first week of October is, well, actually we’re well into October now, but I think October is Mental Health Awareness Month, or there’s a Mental Health Awareness week, so bringing attention to a lot of artists this week who suffered from anxiety, and depression, and mental illness.

Since anxiety stems from our ability to imagine the future, it’s no surprise that many artists who are imaginative suffer from anxiety, and it’s one of the many reasons that I bring on mental health professionals onto the podcast.

For Kusama, the dots, her spots, her webs were part of the hallucinations that she suffered with since she was a child. Yet they also gave birth to some of her most fantastic and beloved artworks and installations. For example, the Infinity Mirrored Room which disorients the viewers with its sense of endlessness. She has mirrors above, water below, and these layered states of interactive art, they lead the participant in a stage of tranquility and positivity.

About her art, Kusama shares, “I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day. And the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art.”

Edvard Munch painted The Scream about 15 years after his father passed away, and what he described as an existential crisis. He shared that the weight of the world suddenly hit him, not unlike a panic attack. 15 years after he painted The Scream, he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. But growing up he was surrounded by death and illness. He lost his mother when he was five. His sister died when he was 14, and his father suffered from depression most of his life. Munch himself became very fascinated with death and also religion.

About art, he said, “Art comes from joy and pain, but mostly from pain.”

And do you know what my friend? To this, I can completely relate. My own father passed away when I was five years old. Maybe the art comes from pain, but the art gives me great joy. Do you feel that way too? I wonder, does your art come from joy or pain? Now, one may not suffer that level of heartbreak to appreciate Munch’s artwork, or to appreciate the feelings that we’ve had in the world. The last few years have felt like The Scream to much of us, and that’s why art gives us meaning.

Agnes Martin, an artist originally from Vancouver who painted in a minimalist style but consider herself part of the abstract expressionist movement. She lived until 92, but experienced a great deal of stress throughout her life, particularly due to her diagnosis of schizophrenia. She suffered from hallucinations, depression, and was often hospitalized. Like Yayoi Kusama, who drew upon the repetition of dots to calm her, one might say that Martin’s work also had a repetitive nature.

She used very subtle color and meticulously drawn grids to create a calming effect. Her art is also part of the billion dollar art auction happening this month at Christie’s. Paul Allen’s billion dollar art trove is being auctioned off. So we’ll be watching carefully to see what her art sells for.

About her art, she said, “Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”

Rothko’s striking and dissonant color combinations are meant to be meditations. He yearned to create art churches where people could look at art and pray. He actually refunded a lucrative commission for the Four Seasons Restaurant, and instead donated his paintings to museums. Here’s what he said about his art.”I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions, and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures, shows that I communicate those basic emotions. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience that I had when I painted them.”

Often on Saturdays my husband and I go to synagogue, but sometimes I go to what I like to call Artagog instead, meaning either that I create art on the weekends or perhaps I go to an art show. Both have a spiritual effect on me. Is art a religion to you? I ask these questions over on my Instagram, and I would love for you to join in on the conversation. I’m at schulmanart over there. That’s S-C-H-U-L-M-A-N-A-R-T. I’d love to know what you think.

Let’s talk about Paul Klee. He was a multi-passionate artist. He studied art and the violin. And it wasn’t until he was 35 did he focus entirely on painting. Throughout his art career, he actually kept changing his style, content, and technique in order to defy categorization. However, the Nazis chose a category for him when they deemed his art degenerative.

In 1933, he began to suffer from a painful illness, yet he continued to paint throughout the end of his life, producing over 1,000 new paintings during those last few years. He believed that creativity comes from beyond consciousness and that making art was a form of meditation.

He said, “I paint in order not to cry.” So my friend, why do you create art whatever format is? Again, come join the conversation over on Instagram, Look for Paul Klee and share your thoughts on @schulmanart over there.

Well, that’s it until next time. I’ll see you the same time, same place next week. Until then, stay inspired.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to the Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram, @schulmanart, and of course on


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