BY: ADRIAN SMITH
Frank O’Hara closes his memoir for Larry Rivers noting, “What his work has always had to say to me, I guess, is to be more keenly interested while I’m still alive. And perhaps that is the most important thing art can say.” Reading that, I realize we easily get desensitized to what goes on around us. Because we experience the world as it is everyday, we often allow the casual, fascinating events of our day to slip by without much enthusiasm for what we’ve witnessed.
Larry Rivers was an American artist, musician, filmmaker and occasional actor in New York City. O’Hara describes his work as something to be looked at as a ‘diary of experiences,’ and is quick to point out that “his paintings are ambitious to save the experiences he gathers.” Works such as Jim Carroll Exposed, At The Jazz Gallery, On Her Back, and Birdie Revisited etc. show off Rivers’ lively ability to find unlimited sources of inspiration in the simple and mundane, every day moments of life we continue to pass by without giving much, if any, thought.
Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara
We take for granted in our everyday experience of life how remarkable each and every small event is, from the sky’s changes as the day lingers on to the sight of people in the streets or the sound of music heard from afar. It’s easy to become immune to the everyday beauty of our experiences, but if we were to be conscious of our surroundings, and hold a genuine interest, we would find major sources of inspiration in almost everything we do and see. If only we allowed ourselves to stay attentive to the little happenings of the day, we could find inspiration more often and more readily accessible than searching futilely for extraordinary sources of inspiration.
O’Hara mentions “Larry always wanted to see something when he painted, unlike the then prevalent conceptualized approach.” His friends and family, really the people he spent most time with became the subjects of his artistic work, no matter his stylistic period. This is because he was able to see something new in anything that was in front of him. He remained truly curious and in awe, not ever allowing himself to get too familiar with his surroundings.
We could all benefit from this approach in our work and our lives, not staying complacent with what we see and believe we already know and instead allowing ourselves to become defamiliarized by everything we interact with. Maybe then we’d maintain excitement throughout the day instead of falling into spells of boredom and banality. When you decide you’re willing to really look around and consider what it is you’re seeing, instead of passing it by idly and writing it off as something you’ve already seen and know, you may find the added inspiration you needed was all around you to begin with—anywhere.