The inner mind

Last weekend, I attended the Eifman ballet in New York City Theater – “Tchaikovsky:  The Mystery of Life and Death”.  Unlike the vast majority of ballets I have seen before, that are centered around a fictional story such as the “Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake”, this production was quite different.  It was an outsider’s view of the inner world of the great Russian composer.

The ballet revealed the many layers of internal torment experienced by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, ranging from whirling ideas about his future productions of “Swan Lake”, “Nutcracker”, “Eugene Onegin” and “The Queen of Spades” to the internal questioning of his own identity.  He was torn between the world of his rich imagination and the external society he lived in.  The story culminates with his death that may have possibly been attributed to a suicide.

So many great historical figures are often associated with internal conflict and difficulty of dealing with external society.  A couple authors that come to mind are Fyodor Dostoevsky, who suffered from epilepsy and Ernest Hemingway, who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder.  While these conditions certainly cannot be considered as gifts, there is often a strong correlation between neurological/psychological disorders and great creativity.

I guess one question worth contemplating is whether the fact that these disorders had to be disguised from society due to potential stigma, leading to greater internal torment, has contributed to the way these great artists expressed themselves through their craft.  Whereas in the current times, free access to the internet, blogs, forums and social media allows such talent to “leak out” and not be converted into something great.

I would love to read your views and comments on this topic.

6 thoughts on “The inner mind

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  1. How many people now-a-days say they have ADD, but have never been diagnosed by a professional. I swear it’s the in thing to have some of these diseases.

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  2. I have seen couple of cases myself during my visit to old age homes Yana. In one case, an epileptic man with no artistic ability who began to suffer recurring epileptic attacks in which he acted aggressively, could not speak or focus his eyes, and acted out of character. During these attacks, the patient began to draw spontaneously and compulsively, and with remarkable skill. In another case, a 68 year-old man had begun to paint at age 56 with the onset of dementia, despite never being interested in art before. In the ten years that passed after the onset of his dementia, his paintings became more and more detailed, colorful, precise and realistic, and he even began to win awards for his art.
    Both these cases highlight the importance of context in understanding how art can tell us about brain disorders. The onset of uncharacteristic artistic behavior or the compulsive desire to create art where there has been no desire before might indicate an emerging neurological abnormality. Similarly, in people who already have creative ability, dramatic changes in style (e.g. from abstract to realistic) can indicate the onset or progression of brain dysfunction.

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    1. That is really interesting . I thought about these as mostly inherent traits that are correlated and may somehow be related. I wouldn’t have thought that onset of a neurological disorder could act as a cause for inspiring artistic activity. That’s actually pretty fascinating. Thanks a lot for sharing.

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  3. This is the reason I’ve a great interest in Art Therapy and Neuro-pathways in the brain. Some of the pathways that are long established are compared to fragmented parts of the personality, of which there can be many, each which has its own voice. In Art Therapy, these voices of independent identity are allowed to contemplate the other parts of the whole, or express singularly. As an artist, it is healing for me to meditate on my expression. What do I want to tell in my work, and how do I take feeling and make it into a visually intriguing expression?

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    1. Thank you for your insights. When I started working on scientific art, I thought that only scientists would be interested in portraying images that they have acquired in their studies. I was quite surprised when my work was noticed by a person suffering from a neurological condition, who attached an #artheals hashtag to my image and requested a custom piece that would portray her disorder and help to raise awareness (you can read more about it here: It also took me a while to recognize how certain pieces of art may carry disguised messages ( I would love to take this offline and further discuss these concepts with you. Thanks.


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