Writer-Artist 12: Lera Auerbach
A Living Renaissance Woman
Lera Auerbach has resisted creative pigeonholing from her earliest years. Playing the piano and composing at four, she was told she must choose, that it was not possible to become both a virtuoso performer and serious composer. When, at 12, she informed her piano instructor that she had written her first opera and it was staged and touring Russia, he said he didn’t want to hear about it, and warned her against interference with her practice. Her response was to become an internationally renowned composer and performer and a poet, painter and sculptor to boot.
Today, her message is “borderless creativity,” and she delivers it to the world as a Cultural Leader of The World Economic Forum in Davos.
The Creative Process
Here is Auerbach on the creative process: “Music emerges from silence, poetry from a white page, painting from a blank canvas. The artist brings to life ideas, sounds, images, giving form to that which was formless before. Yet that silence, that blank page or canvas – is not empty, it is full of infinite possibilities.
“How can one deal then with limitless freedom when everything appears possible, yet full of invisible walls that stifle your imagination?
“The craft of an artist (and here I mean any artistic expression, be it a musical composition, literature or visual arts), requires building forms, structures within which a work of art can operate, the frames of space and time which it can inhabit. It involves creating certain restrictions within which the work can be free to emerge, and against which it can rebel, in other words, creating frames which can be altered, but nevertheless allow for creative thought to flourish and realize itself.”
Her Visual Art
Auerbach’s visual art began with painting but she says she “quickly added mixed media, photography and sculpture.” It has been included in several exhibitions, is often exhibited at performances of her musical work, and has been reproduced in magazines, CDs and books.
Auerbach performed with an orchestra for the first time at eight. Her ballets, operas, chamber and orchestral works—“music of extraordinary power and intensity” in the words of The New Yorker’s Alex Ross–are presented in the world’s most prestigious halls. The author of several librettos, Auerbach has published three books of poetry in Russian, was named Poet of the Year by the International Pushkin Society in New York in 1996, and is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog through her column The Trouble Clef. Her first English-language book, Excess of Being (Arch Street Press, 2015) is a collection of aphorisms—an extraordinary achievement for a non-native.
And check out The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers for more than 400 plates of artwork by great writers and the stories behind them.
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