Art is unnecessary.
Some folks think that art is purely superfluous. They like it. They might think it’s pretty or interesting, but it is not necessary to their lives or even our culture. What is important is clean water, ample food, heating, housing, education. Art is very, very low on their list of things that matter.
“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.” –Kurt Vonnegut*
Art is culture.
Others think it is pure inspiration. It is a different way of viewing the world, it is story-telling through a variety of mediums. They thrive on it. They think that art is our culture, and that without art, we would live bland lives void of meaning or richness.
“Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.” –Kahil Gibran
Art is life.
Others still think art is elusive. Maybe even indefinable, and perhaps so it should be. It is all around us. It is us. They also thrive on art, but their definition is such that art is life, and therefore as necessary as breathing. Art goes without saying.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” –Thomas Merton
The definition of art.
As per Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, art is “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.”
I can get down with that definition, but what I find interesting about each perspective summarized above is that they don’t answer the question of what art is, but rather attempt to describe the value of art.
And maybe that is part of the answer. How do you describe something based on its form when its form is such a small part of its content. The form might be canvas on wood, porcelain, footwork, notes. The content makes you feel something.
I think art is a gift.
I have a BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. This means I spent three years of my life creating stories that were then dissected, poo-poo’ed and (sometimes) heralded. Three years of trying to separate subjective opinions from worthy critiques, and not allowing my feelings and creative ego to be pulverized beyond repair.
It took me a while to figure out how to survive the onslaught of perspective without losing my own. But then it hit me one day – once you create something and share it with the world, it is no longer yours to define. It is a gift, you don’t own it anymore, and the receiver can do with it what they wish.
Art is a gift. Your story, painting, song, script, play, building, drawing, craft is a gift. And the gift is not the form, but rather the content that makes people react and feel in a way that they may not have if they hadn’t seen or heard the work.
Art makes people look at life in a different way. It is complex and deep, and a place for imagination to roam. It is the starting point, the beginning of the story. It gives people a ten-yard lead. And after that, it is theirs to love, hate, understand, dismember or rebuild.
This is some awesome graphic art by Craig Huff. Sometimes I call him Craig Huffipants. Other times I call him Craig the Beautiful, because he’s retardedly good looking, but more importantly, he has a very interesting perspective of the world, which he shares in a number of ways, graphic arts being just one of them. Also, if you invite him, he’ll bring macaroons to your dinner party.
* I cut the quote to make a funny point, but the quote in its entirety is actually quite uplifting and pro-art: “If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” –Kurt Vonnegut