Creativity = experience, observation, imagination

Creativity = experience, observation, imagination

“Creativity has much to do with experience, observation and imagination, and if any one of those key elements is missing, it doesn’t work.” — Bob Dylan, 2011

The Shanghai Modern Art Museum was a former doal storage facility.

The seismic creativity of Bob Dylan is reflected in his music and art. For more than 60 years Dylan has captivated audiences throughout the world. He even won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016.

Dylan’s experience, observation, and imagination are reflected in a recent exhibition at the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition contains more than 250 highlights, including lyrics to some of his most memorable songs, such as “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

The Shanghai Museum of Modern Art is only one of two museums worldwide to exhibit iconic musician’s collection of music, paintings, and sculptures. Only the Shanghai museum and the Halcyon Gallery in London have shown Retrospectrum.

Before the coronavirus changed my life in China, I attended the memorable exhibition. When walking through the museum, it is possible to sit at a table in a Greenwich Village club, experience the countryside and cities Dylan saw on his many musical tours, and touch some of his sculptures. I did not know that Dylan was a sculptor and welder in addition to his poetic and songwriting talents.

One of Dylan’s many sculptures inspired from his childhood on Minnesota’s Iron Range

Among the stunning reproductions of music and lyrics are paintings in oil, acrylic, and watercolor, drawings in ink, pastel, and charcoal, and ironwork sculptures.

The sculptures are particularly interesting as they highlight an aspect of Dylan’s creativity known to few. Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in Hibbing, Minnesota, USA, grew up on Minnesota’s Mesabi (Iron) Range, watching the miners and listening to the trains taking iron ore to be processed into steel.

To understand Dylan’s focus on sculpture, it is essential to understand the role of the Mesabi Range in his childhood and upbringing. “… you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I’ve always worked with it in one form or another,” remembers Dylan.

“My dreams are made of iron and steel,” Bob Dylan wrote in his song, Never Say Goodbye, 1974

The sculptures, some of which have been commissioned by organizations in the United States, reveal a part of the musician little known to his fans and the general public. The sculptures are uniquely beautiful and the museum’s innovative and interactive presentations allow the visitor to touch and explore them.

“This is the first retrospective exhibition of Bob Dylan’s visual artworks that takes place in Shanghai and China … we prefer to tell the story of the art. We hope to bring audiences in so that they can be part of the exhibition,” said Derek Yu, director of the museum.

A piece from an archway, a favorite theme for Dylan as a sculptor and welder

These ironwork sculptures, alongside the sights and sounds of Dylan’s unforgettable music, are a first in Asia. They illustrate the experiences, observations, and imagination that are so central to Dylan’s creativity.

Photos ©Karen Collias

Author

Karen Collias

My name is Karen Collias and I founded Knowledge Without Borders™ to infuse creativity and innovation into the most salient educational issues affecting global contemporary society. I attribute my enthusiasm to cross the borders of traditional knowledge domains to the multi-disciplinary nature of my education and professional experience. The first in my family to go to college, I have a Ph.D. from Columbia University. My professional experience focuses on interdisciplinary research, teaching, and strategic thinking at a variety of institutions, including Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the U.S. Department of State. I currently live in Shanghai, crossing borders and exploring cultures in Asia.

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