Every well known artist I can think of has a singular transformative work. A turning point if you will. One that is clearly better than anything that came before it. Also, one that distinctly shapes everything that will follow. At times these works are a pinnacle of sorts. A point at which an artist has stretched themselves and given the full limit of ability. Therefore, everything else to follow is less great. Other times, such work is just the beginning. Where an artist has finally found a stride that sets them up for a long and successful run.

Sometimes these are obvious. For instance, a great indie band that has a hit single, gets signed to a major label, assigned some famous producers, and suddenly things are no longer the same. They are markedly different. Perhaps it is the production – less or more raw. Perhaps it is that the band, now flush with major label money, has fewer or more creative constraints. Perhaps it simply because now they can afford steak dinner over ramen.

And, of course, there are countless stories of film actors who spend the later half of their lives trying to regain the career making performance they once had. Or the visual artist who after years of struggle in their medium finds that one element that sets them apart.

Sometimes, the forces of change come from within. The author who decides to stretch himself and take on a subject much more different and requiring much more research than he previously has. Or, perhaps she has been featured on Oprah and now has experienced success so great she can’t possibly live up to it again.

In rarer cases, such transformative work causes the author, actor, or artist to go nowhere from there at all. JD Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye being the most obvious example that comes to mind. Following the success of this work he became a recluse, published infrequently, and what he did produce were clearly things he could have just as easily thrown away. Perhaps he knew the work had transformed him in such a way as to never want to produce such work again.

Of course, as this year draws to a close and I reflect upon it, thoughts of transformation are natural. Along with impermanence, I’m going to make transformation part of the scaffolding that supports the structure of my work in the year to come. These are two of the three chairs I plan to sit upon and dialog around in the coming year.

home/ journal/ books/ dash/plus/ archives/ rss