Research

Happiness Is… Research Note #1

To wake up and know that the day is dedicated solely to art making is one of the greatest luxuries that residencies afford. In residence at Montalvo Arts Center.

To wake up and know that the day is dedicated solely to art making is one of the greatest luxuries that residencies afford.

I’m currently in residence at the lovely and pastoral Montalvo Arts Center, preparing for an exhibition called Happiness Is…, which opens in January at the Montalvo Project Space Gallery.

It’s a great opportunity for me because I’ve explored optimism and positive psychology in my work for many years. Yet the idea of making art that defines or instills happiness sets off red flags (and not of the exuberant variety) in my mind. It’s because happiness is a vague term, which has popular and common meanings.

I hope to acknowledge and grapple with happiness’ personal specificity, elusiveness, and complexity. 

I am working on four projects for the exhibition. They are related to happiness, but more specifically, are attempts to concern themselves with:

  • The numerous aspects or components of happiness, or happiness’ complexity;
  • Subjective well-being, positive psychology’s theoretical and research-based knowledge about happiness;
  • Purpose, perhaps a lifelong challenge and key component of happiness;
  • And finally, also, exuberance and sentiment, or in other words, pleasure.

While I’ll focus on production, I will also be reviewing my past research and conducting new research. As I go, I will post notes that seem worthy of sharing. Here’s the first one. It speaks to me because residencies are tremendous opportunities for artists, and Montalvo is especially lovely, and I’m feeling terribly grateful, humbled, and somewhat embarrassed by the riches afforded me.

We must appreciate our core self, who we really are, independent of our accomplishments; we must believe that we deserve to be happy; we must feel that we are worthy by virtue of our existence.

—Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier (2007)
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