Art and Life
Art is generally either about other art, i.e. academic, or it’s about life. In some sense it is always both, but is rarely balanced evenly between these two poles. If art is about life, then perhaps it could be a path of self-transformation. If that is the case, then art inevitably must address the question of how the practice of making art is fulfilling. Does making art make the world seem more coherent? Does it close the gap of an inner urgency that brings healing? Does it help one accept what life offers, or does it make an effort to forge change? If art is to go beyond being a path of acceptance and rejection, then the artist must be humble and masterful at the same time. That is to say, somehow art, to be a path of self-transformation needs to place art in proper proportion to life’s many demands. Art is too often an elite practice aimed at seducing the affluent, or to impress other artists. In that sense it becomes a kind of social game of self-importance. I am not suggesting that the time spent on well-crafted art should not be rewarded by our society. We spend a lot of time translating the hidden beauty of our minds and surroundings into tangible form that otherwise goes unmade and unseen. Too often, however, only other artists understand the subtle nuances of our hard work. Most people, sadly, couldn’t care less. The general public wants a sustained climax in narrative form. So, we make art at least in part for other artists. An artist should constantly remind or ask him or herself why they continue to make art. Is it to address the question of what needs to be different in their lives that could bring enduring happiness, or is it rather getting intimately acquainted with the fleeting moment and the constant signs of change and impermanence that define and challenge our very existence?
When we begin to understand that art is an ongoing process as well as a product, and that art is an offering to others, then we set foot on a wider path that isn’t just for lonesome me. What do we have to offer others? What would be a wonderful thing to offer? Ever so rarely these days, when looking at art, my heart leaps. I want to do that for others. It’s not just about being informative, or stylistically expressive, or technically impressive. All of those things are empty in the final analysis. Yet the heart and mind goes on singing if there is a song. When I look at art I might ask myself if the artist has offered a taste of life I missed and have they crafted that ephemeral moment into a kind of beauty that will endure?
Why do you make art, and if you aren’t an artist how is it possible that you have managed to read this far?