UVU professor’s award-winning book, Talking to Tesla, inspires readers, artists, and a new club
Art holds a great power to change communities, neighborhoods and, most importantly, a single person, both through the experiencing and creation of art. As human beings, everyone has an ability to create; that is what separates us from the animals.
One artist who has gone even further than creating amazingly detailed visual art is Alex Bigney, an art professor here at UVU. Not only has Bigney inspired many through his paintings, but also through the searching of his dreams and discovering a new approach to the creative process. He has a great passion for teaching and believes in the abilities of his students. His original approach has even influenced the new curriculum that is currently being touched on for study of the arts and humanities at UVU.
“[The book] explores all the questions that we would like all the students to explore while they are learning to paint. It explores the personal context at the same time they are exploring [a] historical and studio context. Even with students who are non-majors, who are there for fun, we are taking them through this inner journey,” says Bigney.
There is also a new Art Club forming – the UVU Artist’s Guild. Its president is Carelene Johnson, with Karen Watson as the advisor and Bigney as the secondary advisor. This club plans on being very active, and already has a fundraising event planned for Nov. 9.
Just a few weeks ago on Oct. 9, Bigney was honored with the Salt Lake Best of Broadway at their gala and awards ceremony for his book, TALKING TO TESLA. The book “is literally an artist’s dream journal,” says Cheryl Snapp Conner, of Snapp Conner PR.
The newly formed Community Alliance has worked intensely to create the Salt Lake Broadway, a mimic of the Broadway in New York, filled with enriching art and music. Its purpose is to magnify and make visible all the work that Utah artists have created and make it more available to the public. People of all ages can go and there will be something that will appeal to them; they can cultivate an appreciation for the arts and everything that happens there, no matter what time of the year.
Salt Lake’s Broadway also provides an opportunity for new and aspiring artists to showcase their talents. “The vision of Salt Lake Broadway is to create a gathering place for Utah’s finest artists’ offerings, and to make this rich array of music, art, theater and culinary experience available to all,” the Salt Lake Broadway website states to describes the organization’s mission.
Bigney describes his book as “the strange relationship between art and artist. I like to think that it’s almost anyone’s memoir, the internal workings and explorations that are common to most people – those tender recollections of childhood, the thoughtful constructs of our more private fantasies and the shared self-conscious inquiries that make us aware beings. It is about the magic of inspiration in an average life.”
At the urging of his wife, Marilyn, and good friend, Kent Wing – who also teaches at UVU and did the artwork for the cover of the book – Bigney began recording his dreams. “They were teaching him intense lessons about the creative process,” says Cheryl Snapp Conner. These dreams held intricate symbolism and often included episodes of his life and childhood memories.
Whether art has the power to inspire us, or whether it’s our past experiences and childhood that inspires our art, there is something magical about the process. Bigney states in his book, “[There are] times when I remember and wish bitterly through grownup tears to return to childhood.” Many of us also ache for that return as well and exploring our creative side often has the power to gently whisk us back to those carefree days.
There were also, of course, many elaborate and detailed dreams, several of which involved close conversations with the scientist Nicola Tesla, with whom he had not been familiar prior to having the dreams. This helped Bigney recognize a theme: “Artist or not, there is inspiration and creativity in every life, waiting to be discovered.”
Is the book true? “I don’t answer that question; I leave it to the reader to decide,” Bigney says when asked.
Conner describes the impact this book is having, not only here but around the world, “the book has captured a strong and growing following in the United States and Europe, and even China as readers have become enamored of the book and its ideas, as well as the fact that it is a book that inspires without preaching, which is a welcome source of encouragement and enrichment in our current hard times.”
“I naïvely thought that writing Talking to Tesla might take a few months, especially since I’d been keeping good notes on each of Tesla’s visits. Several years later, after trips to Croatia to Tesla’s birthplace, trips to museums and monasteries in Italy, and solid months of analyzing my notes, reflecting on the impact of what I’ve been learning from Tesla on my life and art making, and writing, writing and writing, the book finally went to press,” Bigney commented on his writing experience during an interview with Catalyst Magazine.
“We are consciously aware beings, that makes us quite magical. We take things from disorganization, and organize it, sometimes just for the experience of doing it. Or we hike to the top of a mountain, just for the view; it’s magical that we do that. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing … life is a creative thing, the book asks the reader to participate in life, we do things too automatically,” says Bigney.
When questioned about the openness of his book, Bingey explained that “We all have these tender lives that we keep secret, because they don’t have a place to come out in our culture.” Through this adventure, Bigney has discovered that “most artists have similar experiences, they really do go somewhere else, it’s like dreaming, it takes another state of being to interact with material, to take the unseen of another world and bring it into this world.”
“It’s important that we work on things bigger than ourselves, whatever it takes,” is something that Bigney often says. “I don’t care if it takes a year to paint a square inch, the details are important. The real art isn’t the painting, it’s the person. What’s important is what happens to me as a person for having walked through the door.” Whether you’re an artist or simply a creative being, there is an invitation to be more, to explore and expose that inner part of us that yearns to create and to truly participate in life. We can learn so much and experience art and our lives in a much more fulfilling way, if we take the time to concentrate on the details, and to see the journey that the artist has painstakingly partaken in. Then we will see the real beauty from within, and the “real art,” the person behind the brush.
To find out more information or to order Talking to Tesla, visit Bigney’s website, www.talkingtotesla.com. To learn about how to become involved with the Salt Lake Broadway visit, saltlakebroadway.org. To explore the UVU Artist’s Guild, contact Carelene Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.