To Create Is To Destroy

I was taken by the subject line from photographer Beth Thompson in my inbox.
The quote “To create is to destroy” is apparently taken from Keri Smith's book, Wreck This Journal.

Beth Thompson, Summer Tree
©Beth Thompson, Summer Tree Possible Perception 6032. Manipulated photograph. Used with permission.

Deep Thought Thursday

“To create is to destroy.”
Why or why not?
If true, what is being destroyed?

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16 thoughts on “To Create Is To Destroy”

  1. as in life—–clear out the useless debris—clear your mind—-and start fresh again–to destroy is permanent—but the open space you create gives you the opportunity for delicious ideas to REform again

  2. My Process is to build then tear down then rebuild over and over… It is natural you on;y need to look at nature and the seasonal cycle to see it…

  3. While I would agree wholeheartedly with the statement, “Create is to destroy”…I wouldn’t credit Keri Smith or her book for the statement or philosophy.
    Taken to it’s simplest form within the context of being an artist – if you pick up a pencil and sketch, you have in effect “destroyed” the pencil in it’s form…. in order to create the mark. Like Alison Allen says above, it’s evident everywhere in nature. That was so apparent to me recently when I did a residency in Gwaii Haanas National Park – a very remote area, surrounded by the fourth most dangerous waters in the world. There, creation and destruction is compressed – magnified – expanded and extremely visible.
    As artists, it’s that cusp – that moment where we destroy one thing, to make another. That cusp moment of choice in action is what defines us as human, and indeed exposes our values – whatever they may be.
    You could say, as an artist, “I am a creator.”….or……”I am a destroyer.”
    It’s a powerful philosophy so use it wisely to deepen your art.

    1. Oh Janice, I never thought of it this way.
      I had only thought about art, and I was sure that we created more than destroyed in the progress. But, when it comes to the growth of our population, of our living habitat, we create infrastructure, we create cities etc… and we destroy so so much in the progress.

  4. Hi Alyson and everyone!
    Alyson, I really enjoy your emails. I’m currently still in the corporate world….but working on the dream.
    “To create is to destroy.” That is a big statement. Creating art is opening up the world to yourself and others. I think of it as connecting with the soul. For me to create is to destroy everything that is negative in my life, that is how I feel! I want to capture something, maybe just a moment in time that reflects something to build on… peace or life or innocence… something good.
    There is a down side to connecting with some artists souls…. it is a dark, horrible place. You can see it in their work. I think they create to destroy. OR they capture a void…. a great nothingness. Where is the life in that?

  5. I ‘recycle’ work tear things off one work then add to another nothing is wasted in destruction just reborn unless i hate it then I become a jealous god…

  6. When I created the image with this post, I first destroyed an arrangement of 1’s and 0’s to make the original photograph. Then I cut a triangle out of the photograph, destroying the original image. Finally, I pieced together the triangle with itself, to create Summer Tree Possible Perception.

  7. I take to “create is to destroy” as a willingness to allow the art making process to be ugly, messy to get to a better solution. Unless you take risks, and be willing to loose both the materials and time invested, you’re always playing it safe. Safe soon becomes boring and a cliche’.

  8. I actually just received the journal as a birthday gift last month and have been working through destroying it. I see the quote quite literally: when you create you are destroying the ingredients, materials, components from their current state to a new state. For example, coloring with pencils creates artwork but destroys the pencil. And, to be more abstract, it is possible to create destruction. Making art about the cycle of creation/destruction – rebirth – constant change is very inspiring to me because it can be explored from many different stages and from different points of view. A theme so dynamic is sure to produce good art !

  9. My art is about those out of the way private places. So by sharing them on my website a little of their privacy is lost?
    So creating that art is also destroying something personal perhaps?

  10. I read this phrase in the same way I read statements like “In order to live you have to die”, or “To make an omlet you have to break some eggs”. Personally, I’m not sure creation is the result of destruction, but rather a process of transformation.
    However, at first glance, I see statements of this sort as more provocative than meaningful. And, from that, I have to ask, “Is provocative productive?”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Russel: I hope you’ll understand that “provocative” is the whole point of Deep Thought Thursday, which you see here 1x a week. Gets us thinking.

    2. Alyson, I understand. Your questions initiate conversations, you have a goal in mind, a “mission” to accomplish. I am somewhat troubled by those who are provocative for the sake of provocation.

  11. I prefer to think of it as
    … to create is to transform.
    The reason I think this way is because I cannot separate my creations or expressions from the things and events that inspire me and have come before me. Art, in whatever form is an expression of life.
    Objects can be destroyed, but experiences can not.

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