Right Brain/Left Brain

Alexander Calder was the child of artists.  His mother was a painter, and his father was a sculptor.  As a child, he loved playing with tools and would often make toys or other objects.  He also excelled in math.  With encouragement from his parents, he decided to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

His career in engineering was fairly short and he decided to enroll in art school.  His interest in art led him to Paris where he became friends with a number of artists who were disrupting the basic concepts of art.

Calder began to make a series of mechanical toys out of found objects.  One of his creations was a miniature circus made largely out of bent wire (https://whitney.org/collection/works/5488).  He was using both his engineering and artistic skills to create what became known as wire sculpture.

When Calder visited Piet Mondrian, an abstract painter, he became fascinated by the geometric shapes that were the focus of Mondrian’s work.  Again, using his engineering background, Calder created what are now called mobiles (https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/alexander-calder-mobile-national-gallery.html).  These were kinetic sculptures involving motors, cranks, and brightly colored geometric shapes.  Sculpture moved from being static to constant motion as impacted by the environment.

Calder then moved to produce a series of monumental sculptures which now reside in many public spaces around the world (http://art-nerd.com/newyork/calders-saurien/).  These sculptures involve intricate shapes of metal welded together to form abstractions which are intriguing as viewed from different angles.

Calder’s art came in many forms.  He painted designs on airplanes and cars.  He created jewelry.  He did stage scenery.   He was honored with a U.S. Postage Stamp and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A popular theory is that people are either left brained or right brained.  The left brain is supposed to be the analytical/logical thinking side of the brain, while the right brain is supposed to be the creative/intuitive side of the brain.  The theory is not supported by MRI studies of the brains of creative people or analytical thinkers.  There are no significant differences in their brains.

The fact is that those who are successful need both analytical and creative abilities.  The right brain/left brain theory gives people an excuse for not trying to develop either their analytical or creative abilities.  Educational systems further this developmental failure by allowing students to opt out of subjects where they believe they have weaknesses.

Abilities are not predestined but can be developed if only we challenge ourselves.  We can no longer accept such phrases as, “I’m not creative,” or “I’m not good at math.”

* * *

“I’m an advocate for whole brain thinking.  I’m not an advocate for the right brain or the left brain.”  – Jill Bolte Taylor (neuroanatomist)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.