A Healthy Dose of Paranoia: Mollie Kellogg

Creative is the secret room in the brain to which everyone has access. Talent is what you choose to do after you enter.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between creative and talented. Here’s what the dictionary says:


1. Having the quality or power of creating.

2. Resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.; imaginative


1. A marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment.
2. Natural endowment or ability of a superior quality.

What I’ve heard from most of those I’ve asked is that everyone is creative, or can be creative. It simply takes either the act of producing something or somehow being original. At a basic level, most people express creativity as they are cooking, cleaning, gardening, decorating their home, choosing what to wear, or fixing their hair for the day.

I can do that.

You can do that.

Lots of folks take it a big step further by creating music, art, literature, architecture, computer programs, films, etc. If we put our minds to it, we could all create those things. They might suck, but in reality, we could actually create something we would feel comfortable labeling as a song, a book, a painting, a film, etc. We might even sell it to someone. Wow!

Being talented is another story altogether. My guest today, artist Mollie Kellogg, says that talent is what you choose to do with your creativity once you decide to exercise it. I’ll go a step further and suggest that it’s also what you are able to do. As hard as they may try, some people aren’t capable of creating anything surprisingly different from what their neighbors are creating. Is it markedly above or superior to the work of others? No.

Does it suck?

Maybe not.

Maybe it’s okay.

Yesterday I strolled around Chelsea, New York City’s famed art district. While I enjoyed popping in and out of the galleries, I was a bit disappointed in the art displayed there. I wondered if it was just me. If I lacked some special filter, the one that tells a highly creative person that what they’re viewing is magnificent. In other words, did I lack an appreciation for the art?

(Go ahead, tell me that I have no right to criticize the art since mine isn’t there. I can handle it.)

During my visit, I was reminded that art appreciation is subjective. I was also reminded of the process for how artists’ work lands in the top Chelsea galleries. I heard a lot about how the “art establishment” works.

After a while it began to sound a bit like corporate America. The art reminded me of those special people who rise to the top while the rest of the folks scratch their heads to the tune of “He’s good at networking and politics … doesn’t matter how smart he actually is, how well he manages people and projects, or how much he actually knows about what the hell we do around here.”

So here I sit this morning with a lot on my mind about where I want my art to land and why. I’m thinking again about the differences between producing and creating, and creative and talented. I’m wondering all over again who decides the value of art and why. If, in the end, art and music and writing are all just businesses ushered forward by “the establishment,” then what is the purpose and where is the place for true talent?

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” I’ve always believed that Mr. Edison’s sweat emerged from trying all those ways to make the light bulb work rather than pounding the political pavement. He also said things like, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Well, I’m getting the feeling that, at least in American culture, we’ve twisted these messages into, “Genius takes 1 percent talent and 90 percent politics,” and “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in a business suit and looks like schmoozing.”

Can you hear my screams of frustration?

I’ve always said that I hate to complain if I don’t know how to fix it. Perhaps instead of getting smaller, the world has grown large and layered, a network that strangles rather than connects. Perhaps there is value in retreating back to a smaller circle where talent can shine through the B.S., beyond established procedures and steps created by folks with less talent or IQ points, and above the incessant chatter of the average, the political, and the bottom-line thinkers?

Who can possibly change our world now that we’re surrounded on all sides by the establishment?

What are they establishing and where is that road leading us?

Mollie’s mantra is “better paranoid than sorry.” Maybe we should all take a shot of her paranoia and think this over. Otherwise, we may all end up sorry, with nothing to show for ourselves but cold, hard, lonely cash.

What’s your story (in a nutshell)?

I am a full-time Creative, 24/7. Born that way. Art, dance, acting. At a cross-roads I chose commercial art over theatre with the thought that I might have a better chance at making a living. My career started in art direction and illustration. As time passed, I intensified my focus on fine art. Always figurative. Fine art and theatre collided in the early 90’s as co-founder of Planet Earth Theatre and Gallery in Phoenix, AZ (and eventually Seattle, WA). I primarily showed large, oversized nudes. After moving to San Diego, CA, I found myself without a space to show/store my work, so I focused on smaller personal works that I wouldn’t mind having around the house a while.

After a decade of theatre work, raising two children, facing health issues, and changing spiritual influences, my art evolved and transformed. Today my images contain a bit of magick, sometimes hidden, as in a portrait such as Onion Hill, or on full display, as in the Incognito Witch Project.

Are you surprised by where you are or did you always see it coming?

I am always surprised at where I am – that is why I won’t go anywhere without my GPS. But seriously, there is a hazard and correlation between getting lost in the creative mind when driving and getting “physically” lost!

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an “ah-ha” moment you can tell us about?

Divorce. Once nature has had its way with you and you have had your kids, (what I call the salmon swimming upstream syndrome), and you find yourself alone, as in divorced, without anyone besides yourself carrying the power to veto your dreams – then every single day has the potential to become an ah-ha moment.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? If could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

In my mind, creation without expression results in decorative art. My high school art teacher once chastised a cute little watercolor I showed her as “decorative.” Those word still sting. (Hand grasps at chest.)

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)?

I think highly creative people are naturally drawn to multiple disciplines and can participate passionately in each. However, unless they have a team of people working with or for them, I think it would be very hard to market multiple art forms, from a time perspective, unless the art forms are integrated, somehow.

Can a person succeed at more than more, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I think a creative person with multiple talents or even a knack for multiple mediums within a single art form, who finds everything easy for them, might find it hard to focus. And back to marketing, it is hard to tell people who you are if you haven’t discovered that for yourself.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life’s aberrations, or both?

In Junior High I was targeted for being very white and very red-headed. Basically I stood out. It probably didn’t help that I wore two different colored socks at times and other much-too-embarrassing incidents to report here. Why did I not fit in? Because my parents just let me be who I was? Could they have taught me to assimilate? However, at the very same time I was hiding out in the classroom at lunch to avoid getting my butt kicked, I danced a solo to Love Will Keep Us Together in the school talent show and I somehow became captain of the Pom-Pom Line choreographing the team dances, despite the team not really liking me. The lesson? If you can’t Fit In, Stand Out. Discipline, talent, persistence and passion will eventually get you respect.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? Does anyone really understand a Creative and their drive?

Other than another Creative with similar values? Spouses, friends, and other loved ones, even those who are creative, are jealous of sharing you with your other love and the time it takes away from them.

If so, can you tell us about it and how you’ve dealt with it?

Actually, I think I prefer that they do not understand me. Makes what I have to offer more “special” and “mysterious.” Just as long as they do not fear me. Just my kids should fear me.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

Life is a Dream and I am not going to be satisfied until the final curtain.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented?

Creative is the secret room in the brain to which everyone has access. Talent is what you choose to do after you enter. I live in my Creative Room. It is locked from the outside.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life?

Better paranoid than sorry.

Why is this important to you?

I have kids.

Be sure to check out Mollie’s 3-part documentary focusing on her Incognito Witch project. Here’s the first part:

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