This week we feature a pre-recorded conversation with Richard Whittaker about the nature of Aesthetic Thought, the connection of Numinous in artistic expression, and the exquisite sensitivity of the human instrument when unmediated by conceptual association. Richard Whittaker is the co-founder, with Rue Harrison, of the non-profit "Society for theReCognition of Art" and founding editor in 1998 of the magazine works & conversations. Earlier he founded The Secret Alameda [published from 1990-96]. He is also the West Coast editor of Parabola Magazine. Although Whittaker has a background in philosophy [BA] and clinical psychology [MA] and has done graduate work at the GTU in Berkeley, his connections with art go back over forty years including photography, ceramics, painting and sculpture.
In answer to the question of why he started an art magazine, Richard says:
A central motivation was my dismay at what I found missing in the art world as I began exploring it in 1980. [Before I'd simply done art on my own.] Nowhere did I find any resonance in the writing of critics and art theorists for what Bruce Nauman expressed (with considerable ambivalence) in an early piece: 'The true artist helps the world by expressing mystic truths.' Such an elevated thought could not be taken seriously in 1980. In 1967, the ground for such a proclamation was already very shaky. Was it a joke? And yet my own experiences in the face of beauty (especially of light) were such that I felt compelled to find a way of honoring them. Surely, the experience of the presence of the numinous had not gotten old. It had only gone missing somehow. What I found lacking in art world discourse was not difficult to find when I turned to artists themselves. A common understanding was often near at hand. And here was the material I wanted to help get into circulation through the public space of a magazine. "Since then, my focus has widened to include broader examples of the transformative power of creativity used in the service of a greater good. This possibility is not limited to artists. AK Coomaraswamy's formulation, taken from his study of traditional societies, puts it well: 'The artist is not a special person, but each person is a special kind of artist.'