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Flow: Theory and Practice

Artists Joan Snyder and David Reed in conversation with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, distinguished professor of psychology and management and founding codirector of the Quality of Life Research Center, Claremont Graduate University, and Molly Donovan, curator of art, 1975–present, department of modern art, National Gallery of Art. Social scientist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes in his well-known theory on flow the total involvement in any highly skilled, challenging activity, when self-consciousness and the sense of time dissolve into pure concentration. The creative process is a perfect illustration of this theory. In the East Building installation Flow: Modern Art from the Collection, the theme of flow can be found in the transit of brushed or poured pigment across objects, canvas, and floor; in the flux of color and composition; in the moving circuitry of words and pictures; and in images of fluidity, water, and migration. The recent renovation of the East Building, which opened many new paths of circulation through the museum, reminds us that flow is equally important for viewers forging new ideas and connections with works of art. In this conversation held on December 11, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Molly Donovan and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi join artists David Reed and Joan Snyder, whose paintings are included in the Flow installation.