This is a ramble about art. Art is a gift, an offering made by the artist into a great expanse of experience and encounter. Art creates culture and perpetuates beauty. Art changes minds and can change hearts by offering a point of view. Art can provoke and disturb the status quo. But, how is art born? Steve Frost gives us beautiful language describing the gift of art and its birth in the artist by saying:
“Like plants in a city, the artist’s gift is processing the CO2 of unfiltered human experience and offering back the oxygen of context and meaning.”
Like plants in a city.… I love that image for the artist. We artists listen, take in and absorb this experience of humanity. This is a transformative venture because the artist is always changed as a result of creating art. This is good because it means we are growing and learning as artists. This is also good because it is subversive in an empire of un-learning. Sure, we have more information than ever before being transferred from one mind to the next, but information is not learning. Like the Irish poet William Yeats once said; “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” In this sense, artists are pyromaniacs that have the potential to light the world on fire with their work. This means art is on the crest of culture-creating, often leading the dialogue into new territory for ideology, value, and meaning.
Offering back the oxygen of context and meaning… Art is an offering, an expensive and valuable offering of generosity to the world. We artists suffer through our work being led my the muse into saying things. Often artists are not entirely sure of where a project is going or what it will look like. Artists are haunted by an idea stemming from the quesion of “What If…?” The artist is open and led into disorientation in order to be reborn through the process of offering back context and meaning. If you ask any artist, they will tell you that this creative process is what it means to be alive. Many artists can't help but do what makes them feel alive, regardless of pay check or praise.
One more thing about art… When the artist creates, she never really knows the imapct of the gift once its offered to the world. Giving of art to the world is an incredible act of relinquishment on behalf of the artist. This alone, regardless of the art, is a subversive act, for it demonstrates surrender of control in a world grasping for it. The artist lives in a state of unknowing during the creative journey and the giving of art to the world. The artist needs to be content living in this tension. For art to be art, it must make its own way into ears, eyes, hearts, and minds. The artist cannot control this experiential encounter between the art and the beholder, for this would be propaganda. Whether it is one person or one billion that view, buy, or talk about any art they experience, every piece offered to the world is valuable for the reasons expressed above.
Just some thoughts about art on a Saturday night.