Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Popeye Effect: The Path to Transcendence

Artist Jeff Koons refers to Popeye as the archetypal figure of transcendence. Before he eats his spinach, he is just an ordinary man. In fact, his mantra is “I am what I am.” Meaning nothing special, only Popeye. That’s until he eats his Spinach. Then a miracle happens.  He goes from ordinary to extraordinary. 

This idea of moving into a transcendental state is what we do as artists. 

I’ve often felt that the only time I can command respect is when I play. In fact, people who mainly know me as an artistic civilian are usually surprised at how differently I appear when performing. I imagine I would probably feel the same way if I were observing me from their perspective.

As artists, it’s crucial that we don’t merely perform or merely create. If we don’t transcend, we are not maximizing the mystical side of creativity; the unexplained. It’s sort of like being an actor and merely reading the script instead of transforming and becoming that character. I’m not convinced that our earthly self and our creative self should be one in the same. Our earthly self-has way too many societal barriers to contend with.  Whereas, our creative self has but two: imagination and courage. Imagination enables us to envision, courage gives us the hutzpa to bring it to fruition.

Don’t let your human self-perception stand in the way between you and transcendence. As the army says, “Be all that you can be.” Even if what you become is not of this earth.  Give outer space a try. It seemed to work for Sun Ra.

As Friedrich Nietzche said, "No artist tolerates reality." 


  1. Very nice! Leaving behind one's earthly self while playing is a difficult thing to do. When it first happens, it is like magic, but after it happens once, you want it to happen every time. For some reason, I have an easier time letting go in the studio than when performing.


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  2. That's interesting, I've found the opposite to be true. And certainly in my career that could be contributed to me playing original material and having to read and count like crazy.


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