I write this after a week away from the blog. At this point, I don’t think anyone’s following this and I don’t blame them. There are so many ambitious types out there hoping to become something or someone significant through the authoring of regular blogs. With that in mind, I wonder why I’m doing this and, as I try to connect the dots, new insights emerge.
After all the recent work and thinking about art, my art and the art that surrounds me in this life, I’ve come across some thoughts that help me anchor my practice.
First of all, art is revelatory. Through our work, we show who we are, one way or another. So, to have any worth as an artist, what gets revealed needs to be authentic. The work will show who we are so we might as well be truthful.
Second, art isn’t just about personal expression. Art is a form of communication that can’t be achieved through any other method. What we see has it’s own system of seeing and showing. That system is frequently beyond the scope of what the written word can encompass. This is an aspect of the essential “thingness” about art that Clive Bell refers to. It also harkens back to Lessing’s essay on Laocoon, which leads to what we call, “formalism.” There are things that sculpture can do creatively that a symphony can’t and vice versa. There are feelings and perceptions that a poem can evoke that a painting can’t. This uniqueness of each form of artistic expression hints at the deeper truth that art communicates in ways that can’t be explained and achieves meaning that evades rational explanation. As Paul Klee put it, “Don’t talk painter, paint!”
Third, this leads to one of my core concerns, that art needs to resonate and, how that is achieved needs to be through meaning that goes beyond what shocks, startles or grabs our attention. The resonance needs to go as deeply as possible into the core or our shared experience. There are many ways to get this done within the arts. Music is an incredibly abstract form, capable of bringing us to tears through a combination of notes plucked on the strings of a wooden box. Some have been deeply moved by the paintings of Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko, with others dumbstruck by the contorted metaphors of Salvador Dali. Others are moved deeply by the poetry of Emily Dickinson or Sylvia Plath. Each form has its unique qualities that can evoke deep responses through separate means.
Maybe last, for now. I believe that each era has forms that resonate because of the complex matrix of experience unique to that time and place. Some work resonates deeply for a short period of time and is then forgotten, or largely forgotten. Alphonse Bourgereau was widely honored and acclaimed during his time and is now little more than a footnote.
For me, that means that I’m searching for a creative form that is unique to my experience, resonates deeply with whom I share it and has qualities unique to our time while still conveying eternal complexities of human experience.