Although academics continue to try, the creative imagination remains an elusive animal evading scientific attempts to define or systemize these processes. Artists often have little explanation for how they create – they just do. It becomes a habit, a way of observing the world, of feeling and seeing what happens around them with a unique attentiveness that allows them to reinvent and recompose the experience musically, visually and physically. The creative process is intuitive and personal and the result is received by the audience as subjectively as it was created. Tiala says that she cannot explain how she creates in any quantifiable terms, but she can attempt to give us a glimpse of the visual experience. Join her for a scenic designer’s look at ‘ways of knowing’ – and be prepared for moments without words.
Set designer Crystal Tiala, Associate Professor of Design in the Theater Department, gave a lively and hands-on presentation entitled “Intuition, Emotion, and Visualization” on March 11. Tiala described the process of designing a set, which involves research about the show, its historical context and the playwright. Using the collected information, she begins to develop an idea of what she wants the set to look like. She emphasized how important context is and argued that the context in which one sees an image is just as important as the image itself. Unlike many other academics, Tiala said, she “intuits” things based on her own observations; she visualizes and does not verbalize. This can make her feel like an outsider in the university community, she noted, because her work does not necessarily come across as “academic” to those in other disciplines.
To challenge the audience’s tendencies towards words rather than images, Tiala engaged the audience with image cards and slides, asking everyone to contribute ideas about what sort of emotions the images evoked. She included images of several of her own sets from shows at Boston College and elsewhere, as well as collages her students created. The audience offered a wide-ranging mix of ideas and perspectives in response to the variety of images Tiala provided.