Struggling with Art and Preconceptions

In her memoir, Sources, Uta wrote of her friends:

Back in New York in the mid-forties, I'd become a part of an extraordinary group of people, many of whom have stayed my friends up to this day. For years we gathered regularly at Alexander Schneider's (a founder of the Budapest Quartet, a violinist and conductor). The atmosphere that Sasha, as we called him, had created reminded me of books I'd read about the European salons of the nineteenth century. We ate and drank too much, exchanged ideas and fought for our convictions. Quite often, deadly serious talks turned bawdy and hilarious. Among the notables who came with regularity were: Stravinsky, Milhaud, Balanchine, and Isaac Stern, and Serkin and Istomin, Nabokov, Bernstein and Bil Baird, Gjon Mili with Jane Eakin or Margaret Bourke-White. It was a motley crowd.
So often during passionate discussions with my fellow artists, I was amazed when problems that they had in painting or in writing were similar to ones I'd recently learned to face when struggling with a role. In our opinion, the creative urge came to a boil whena particular subject was so deeply, personally felt, the artist was compelled to make his statement, his expression. The content must subjectively be wrestled with, its various components separated, honed, and then selectively put into place to make the whole.This was the task. Ideally, the result would have a form; style would evolve. The content would communicate to those who saw or heard the finished work. We fervently believed that this procedure was the never ending search for a good artist, precluding smugness or self-satisfaction. Achievement of the ultimate wasn't possible, but struggling for perfection made one's life worthwhile. We felt bad artists always started with a preconception of a form or style which boxed them in; no matter how they tried to stuff it with a little content afterwards, resulting in cliches and imitations, a guarantee of superficiality.

london, #unfinished
Uta Hagen

Born in Germany, Uta Hagen moved to Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of six. With the exception of several interruptions for study in Europe, Ms. Hagen received most of her schooling in Madison, her home until age sixteen. After training briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, she made her professional debut in 1937 in Dennis, Massachusetts, as “Ophelia” in Eva Le Gallienne’s production of Hamlet.

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