The Reason Of Art
A curator friend of mine asked me to justify my existence, posing the question "why do you make art and why do you think it is important?"
It's a mysterious process. As I sit in the pristine silence of a winter night in the woods and contemplate a couple of very large paintings, unexplained things start to happen. If I can relinquish my role as an actor and become part of the audience, assemblages of shapes and colors emerge as if the paintings have a mind of their own. Looking at paintings is something that I love to do. I've loved playing with colours since I can remember. It's no more or less rational than getting up in the middle of the night to be in a canoe on some misty lake as the sun rises. We follow our inclinations and that's what defines our individuality, our value as human beings. To me, making art is as natural as picking a stick up off the beach and making marks in the sand.
The Reason of Art 5/2/98
The things that are called feelings
are so rich and vast
that a record of their features,
a map or diagram
might be of value
to those who will tread the same path
lest they fall off the edge
As humans we are curious, we push at boundaries, we explore the world around us and we explore the world within. There are pleasures, delights and surprises along the many paths of learning and like exploring Paris by Metro, we find out that the routes intersect at many different levels. When we marvel at some unexpected achievement and exclaim, "I didn't know I had it in me" we are speaking the truth. If we can quiet the mind and allow the soul to speak, the soul speaks through art. When we learn to draw we are learning to draw forth from a well. In art there is a mysterious ability to transcend boundaries. When we look at a painting that Tom Thomson made as he sat in Algonquin Park amidst the fleeting colours of a late afternoon in October, how difficult is it to imagine that crisp smell of autumn leaves or the call of the loon? We have been hanging paintings on our walls for centuries because they enable us to travel through our imagination to distant times and places and "speak" across the boundaries of time and space. When I walk into a room full of Rembrants, for example, a self portrait will call me over like a fellow traveler in some exotic place to speak in a language that we share. In art there sensory short circuits. First we have to realize what's going on then we have to stop ourselves from denying it. Making art is a way of exploring our abilities of perception. We learn to hear that which we could not hear and see that which had been invisible to us. Through making art we enhance our critical abilities. This self-education can be applied to every thing we do. It allows us to see not only the needs or opportunities that others wouldn't notice but we develop skills, resourcefulness and confidence. This knowledge expands as we develop the tools and processes of our daily lives.
There is no substitute for experience in the school of life and rising to a challenge is an essential part of that experience. Every age needs to be allowed to speak for its self, in whatever languages it finds necessary.
Our vocabulary expands from the time we are born ( in any number of languages ). The more we are exposed to as children, the richer the possibilities as we begin to take responsibility for ourselves. The wider the range in forms of self expression that we are exposed to the more likely we are to find "our own voice." No matter what we pursue with passion, whether it's hockey, haiku or hang gliding, there will be valuable lessons learned. An ability to express ones self clearly is essential.
On Making Art
The capacity that
I have access to
is only mine to share.
there is pleasure
in making art
to those who have
If "necessity is the mother of invention, " What are the other essential components? Are they not; recognizing a need, imagining a solution and, through your own skills and determination, bringing forth the answer? What could be more satisfying! Imaginative problem solving and creativity, surprisingly enough, are two of the key ingredients of such highly regarded endeavors as scientific research and development as well as entrepreneurship. Yet the parallels are seldom drawn. If the thought processes of artistic endeavor, alone or in combination with more linear (empirical) methods, can bring a quicker solution to any of our society's problems, then the value of art is immeasurable. Don't worry, art education is no more likely to produce artists than math education will produce mathematicians. They are both valuable introductions to different and complimentary learning styles. Art stimulates the imagination and through art, languages expand so that new insights may be shared. Art has been integral to the fabric of society since the beginnings of civilization. From the cave paintings of Lasceaux to the architectural monuments of ancient Greece; from the multidisciplinary achievements of characters like Leonardo and Michelangelo to what ever achievements that future generations deem significant from this age, it's all interwoven.