Urban myth would have us believe that to succeed as 'artists' we must focus with laser-like intensity on one medium.
But to develop our creativity, branching out into different disciplines - as well as collaborating with creatives in other fields - might be more important than we think.
I look at yet another collaboration by surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí - this time with the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock - and ask what lessons it might hold for our own creative growth.
It is tempting to think of Dalí as an egocentric loner locked away in his private, surreal painting-as-nightmare world. In fact he came of age as an artist at a time in Spain of very active socializing and collaboration between creatives of different genres as well as as a multi-disciplinarian approach to creativity as seen in the work of Rafael Alberti and Dalí’s friend and almost-lover, the poet Federico García Lorca.
After his early collaborations with both Lorca and Buñuel, Dalí would continue to collaborate with other creatives throughout his life including the fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, animator Walt Disney and, most famously, with film director Alfred Hitchcock.
Psychoanalysis Comes to the Big Screen
Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945) which features a number of dream sequences, was a perfect fit for Dalí's surreal imagery .
The producer, David Selznick - an independent film maker without the backing of a big studio - got the idea for the film after his own experience of analysis in 1943 and even brought his psychotherapist onto the set as technical advisor!
"I can’t make out just what sort of a place it was. It seemed to be a gambling house, but there weren’t any walls, just a lot of curtains with eyes painted on them. A man was walking around with a large pair of scissors, cutting all the drapes in half. And then a girl came in with hardly anything on and started walking around the gambling room, kissing everybody."
Hitchcock talking about his collaboration with Dalí on Spellbound
A Spanish Dog
One of the central images of the sequence is of an oversized pair of scissors cutting through an eye painted on a curtain (Uggh!).
Hitchcock - who would have seen the film A Spanish Dog, Dalí made with Spanish film director Luis Buñuel in 1929 featuring a similar sequence - says* that he wanted to "convey the dream with great visual sharpness and clarity–sharper than film itself" and wanted Dalí because of "the architectural sharpness of his work."
*1962 interview with François Truffaut
Although the film itself did not turn out to be one of Hitchcock’s most successful, despite Dalí’s collaboration and the acting skills of Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, it marked a before and after in the history of film with it’s groundbreaking use of the psychoanalyst-as-detective.
"The analyst seeks only to induce the patient to talk about his hidden problems, to open the locked doors of his mind. Once the complexes that have been disturbing the patient are uncovered and interpreted, the illness and confusion disappear…and the evils of unreason are driven from the human soul."
Not that different from our job as artists, really...
How often do you step outside your usual creative medium?
Share your thoughts in the comments!