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Robert Genn Twice Weekly newsletter

canoeingThe Mystery of the Non-Depressed Men
by Robert Genn

December 29, 2009

Research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has determined artistic men are less likely to be depressed than artistic women. Professor Jostein Holmen and others studied the lifestyle and mental health of 50,000 folks. While both men and women benefitted from attention to music, literature and painting, it was the men who ended up sunny and optimistic.

This can't be right, I thought. I always figured depression was an equal-opportunity condition. Then I started thinking it must be the men who were under-reporting their depression. Just yesterday, for example, I painted a particularly lousy painting. Feeling myself slipping into my usual post-painting depression, I quickly phoned a couple of friends and told them I had just painted a dandy. They believed me, and I was soon back on the sunny side of the river.

Later, with the help of eggnog, I was reading an interview with Garrison Keillor in a recent edition of Time. Keillor is a guy who always picks me up and makes me feel the universe is a benign and pleasant place to hang out. Asked, "How did you master both writing and oral storytelling," Keillor replied: "I didn't. There's no mastery to be had. You love the attempt. You don't master a story any more than you master a river. You feel lucky to canoe down it."

Speaking of canoeing down a river, have you ever taken part in the creative act of couple-canoeing? Ninety percent of the time the woman gets to be in the bow, "for the power," while the man is in the stern, "for the control." So there you have it, the woman is up front taking in the first mouthfuls of mosquitoes, while the guy sits aft just happy to be there. But then again the guy has control. He can point that Grumman anywhere he wants. He can even shout over and tell the other canoeists he knows what he's doing.

Apparently, one of the great anti-depressants released by art is the feeling of community--of being part of a greater whole. One would think with all the sophisticated networking going on with women artists in North America, they'd be the most under-depressed on the planet. Are Norwegian females defying the trend and working alone in snowbound cabins? And why do North American male artists insist on paddling their own canoes?

Best regards,


PS: "There is less depression among men who participate in cultural activities, although this is not true for women." (Professor Jostein Holmen)

Esoterica: I've always held a secret belief that men are more prone to self-delusion than women. When push comes to shove, most of the male artists I know are legends in their own minds. Contrary to the conventional wisdom they're losing their marbles, the condition may be the glue that keeps them together. I'd appreciate if you would keep my secret belief under your mosquito net, as I'm just about to go into the studio and paint another dandy.

-- Robert Genn

For more inspirational posts by Robert Genn, visit painterspost.com.  Robert has given ARTAZINE permission to post his newsletter on this site. 

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