Perhaps it’s the by-product of too much school, but I can’t help but draw on references when I see art, read a book, listen to music, or watch movies. Case in point — I am a big fan of these drawings by Liisa Kruusmagi

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But I immediately thought of Egon Schiele…

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And Ernst Kirchner…

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And the great Francis Bacon…

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If I had to guess, I would say the artist is fully aware of the references upon which she draws. After all, it doesn’t seem possible in this age of global communication and formalization of the arts industry to work within a tabula rasa mentality.

Harold Bloom wrote about this in his seminal  text THE ANXIETY OF INFLUENCE. For better or worse, requisite reading in lit theory classes. Though the book primarily concerns itself with poets and poetry, the term has subsequently been applied to other disciplines.

According to Bloom, poets — while striving for originality and thus earning a place in the halls of greatness — can’t help but feel burdened by what has already come before them, and thus feel an anxiety of influence. Which oftentimes renders the works derivative and formulaic. Obviously, I’m simplifying. But you get the point.

However, I often find the opposite to be true in practice. Using another overused catchphrase — “standing on the shoulders of giants” gives artists the opportunity to take the best of what’s come before them. Good artists add their own perspective.

Call me cynical. But I’m not sure if originality should be either the benchmark or the end goal. Or whether such a thing as originality is even truly possible.

Okay. Enough. I’m beginning to remember why I hate writing papers.

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