Letter from the Editor: The Shoulders of Giants
In the May 13, 2008, issue of Biostream, Tony Rook traces the origin of this famous Isaac Newton quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” According to Rook, Newton was paraphrasing Bernard Silvestris, also known as Bernard of Chartres, a famous 12th century scholar, who is reported to have said: “We are like dwarfs [sic] standing [or sitting] upon the shoulders of giants, and so able to see more and see farther than the ancients.” However, Rook also notes that “[s]ome of the earliest references [to this quote] can be traced back to Greek mythology where the blind giant Orion carried his servant Cedalion on his shoulders,” so the youth could act as Orion’s eyes.
I provide the known origins of this famous “shoulders of giants” quote for a reason: to create an analogy between the quote and how one artist influences and aids another. Art—like this quote—is frequently collaborative in nature; one artist usually acts like a person walking in new snow, breaking a trail for other artists to follow. In turn, these later artists often improve and embellish this trail, making it easier to traverse for the artists who follow them. Of course, artists also can and do walk side by side in new snow, and together they break a trail for their fellows—remember Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Van Gogh and Gauguin, and the writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
In this Spring 2012 issue of West, we acknowledge and celebrate the collaborative nature of art. We have faculty from five of the nine LACCD colleges working together as editors. In addition to our editors who are already on board—Dr. William Wallis (Valley) and A. Jay Adler (Southwest), our poetry editors, and Dr. Anthony A. Lee (West), who writes about marginalized artists and artforms—we welcome aboard these new editors to West: screenplay editor Dr. Katherine Boutry (West); art editor Surana Singh-Bischofberger (East); and theatre editor Kevin Morrissey (City).
In keeping with its collaborative artistic spirit, West has expanded its mission statement. We will continue to promote LACCD artists (students, staff, faculty, administrators), showcasing their works and striving to provide them with the opportunity to work with noted quality artists outside the LACCD—and as of this issue, we will also make a more concerted effort to interview noted artists outside of the LACCD, and to showcase their works, in an effort to achieve a wider audience for LACCD artists featuring in West. Producing art is often a collaborative process, but promoting artists is always a collaborative process. We will stand on the shoulders of giants, and there, on their shoulders, we will see farther than we have ever seen before.
Together, as a team, we artists can accomplish more than we can accomplish apart, and this axiom rings true not only in regard to art, but also in every facet of society: the recent Occupy Movement (citizens uniting to bring about important economic reforms), race relations, and an end to global conflict. In the spirit of collaboration, and with renewed vigor, let us begin this process together of bringing well-deserved attention to the quality artworks produced by LACCD folk.