WHAT INSPIRES? / by Peter Mayor

What is it that inspires us to create art? Whether it be sculpture, poetry, dance, painting, or music, there is a moment when the urge arises and, in our humble way we begin.

My earliest recollection of one such moment was in San Francisco in the mid-1950s. My parents were then living in the Sunset District located near Golden Gate Park. Most nights, when the weather was cooperating, my father would take my brother and me to the park and let us run and explore.  I experienced my first encounter with the urge when I stumbled upon Robert Howard’s killer whale sculpture in storage behind a copse of trees and a chain link fence. The sight was riveting and for a seven year old boy, overpowering. The sculpture would later show up in front of the San Francisco Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park and would remain a touchstone, until the new Renzo Piano building replaced the old facility. The sculpture now resides at San Francisco City College where it is apparently well loved and taken care of (see article below from the SF City College Guardian).

Howard sculpted the Whales for Pflueger’s “Art in Action” in the Golden Gate International Exposition 1939-1940 at San Francisco building on Treasure Island.   Howard’s 13- foot-tall sculpture was surrounded by works of art from such celebrated artist as Beniamino Bufano, Diego Rivera, Sargent Johnson, Dudley Carter and Fred Omstead, explained Bergman.

When the exposition closed, much of the art met an untimely end.   “The thing about these fairs is that most of the art that goes into them are ephemeral,” said Will Maynez, a member of City’s Works of Art Committee.  “When the fair is over they would topple them.”

The Whales were saved from that grim fate by the San Francisco Arts Commission, who put the sculpture in storage, where it remained until 1958.  It was then that the Whales were put on center stage, in the midst of a fountain in front of the San Francisco Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park.

Oh that first inspiration, when joy and ignorance combine and the exuberance of play lead one on. But what is it that inspires or re-inspires those who continue when no one else is interested or when one has completely lost the thread of the work? This blog starts with a fundamental question all artists must face sooner or later; why do I make art? I hope to generate some discussion and perhaps insights into my process and the creative process in general. And along the way have some fun too.