Wednesday, May 13, 2009


In the previous essay, I equated the creative energy as being very similar to the energy of a child at play.  The kind of uninhibited, spontaneous play that exalts in the passion and freedom of physical, mental and spiritual freedom (lots of yelling and laughter probably doesn’t hurt).  Please note, I have resisted the temptation to try to specifically define creativity (definition is an intellectual process at best), and have satisfied myself with merely illustrating creativity in action.  I have a hunch it is similar to the Supreme Court Justice who once observed that it seemed to be very difficult to precisely define pornography, but most of us can pretty easily recognize it when we see it.  Unfortunately, for the law, precise definitions are important, but as artists, hair splitting will get us nowhere.

I also mentioned that as adults, we attempt to learn to be artists, and we hope to learn the creative process.  Although I taught art for well over thirty years, I would like to suggest that we would accomplish more if we worked at discovering instead of learning.  The two words are quite different.  Discovery is an active process, engaged in inquisitively, while learning is often the result of someone else presenting you with what they feel you should know. 

We should be working upon discovering our former childlike joy at giving sound, form, and substance to our inner dreams, but unfortunately, if you visit the average adult arts class you won’t encounter much joyful, active, noisy creativity.  Behaviorally, the class will probably appear more similar to a tenth grade civics class than to a second grade recess.

Something to consider.  Throughout history, we can observe that there have been two elements present in virtually every culture that the archeologists have uncovered - visual art and spirituality (religion).  Not only are they always present, they are almost always closely linked, and often the bond is unbreakable.  Almost all art from the past has strong ties to a religious/spiritual/divine viewpoint, and conversely, much of what we know about historic religious belief comes from their art.  In all likelihood, it was not just visual art but also dance, song and storytelling, but those arts don’t always pass down through time as well as the visual.

There is an interesting possibility that our need to express ourselves spiritually as well as artistically may indeed come out of the same human framework or desire - they may well be different aspects or projections of the same primal force in human nature.  Both exist to provide symbolic and broad views of the mysteries and powers that lie all around us, and both attempt to forge links that help us understand the non-understandable.  They provide a bridge between the sacred and profane.  Unlike science which must be based upon a careful examination of the facts and data available, art and faith leap beyond science’s reach, and through the use of imagination and a connection to the spiritual (are they really different?) propel us into and through the unknown. 

The function of science has always been to answer questions.  It collects verifiable data, subjects it to analysis, and then uses that process to explain and quantify our world.  It is not a collection of “maybes”, or “I wonders”, but information and knowledge that we can use in a practical and efficient manner.  Art, on the other hand, has always dealt with the mystical, and specializes in asking questions and pointing in new and perhaps improbable directions.  If my art offers any answers at all, it tells you what I am thinking about, what is fearful or mystical, what puzzles me and what makes my pulse race and my heart pound.  Art’s voice is the sound of the spirit and the soul made audible.

To paraphrase the above paragraph, Science answers questions, Art asks questions.  We will return to this concept several times in later essays.

In the past hundred years, art has moved strongly in the direction of self-expression and self-fulfillment, and towards portraying the artist as a unique individual, and at the same time, shed most of its links with obvious, monotheistic religion.  Personal creativity has become a widely held value in our culture, and the creative artist personifies that value.  It is one of the few opportunities most of us will have to consciously and with full awareness conceive, develop and to present to the world a creative and unique gift.  The production of art allows you to give a small piece of your soul to people who otherwise might not even know you exist.  You have created that which never was, and, unlike your job or your hobbies, that creation could only have come from you, nobody else could have taken your place.  If it weren’t for you, your art would never have been born, and now you have contributed to your posterity.  Life is short, art is long.  What will you give to eternity?

I welcome any comments, suggestions or criticisms you may have about my writing, Feel free to leave comments or e-mail me:





Bunnicula said...

Ars longa, vita brevis.

I must say that caused me to smile. The saying is too familiar. It is the motto of the college I'm in. To find this at the heart of your discussion and my doubts is rather interesting.

What will an artist--or even a man--give to eternity? Well, inasmuch as simply existing he had given something to eternity, for he had done, in his lifetime, many actions that have caused repercussions which will reverberate far beyond his or anyone's sight, if not in the fate of his own descendants, then in everyone else that came in contact with him. It does not need an artist to change anything, make a mark in eternity, as such. We may believe that as artists we do something that is unique in our own contexts, and nothing can replace it. Maybe it is correct. It is hard to throw an absolute in terms of a growing argument. But still, I cannot help but offer my opinion that to see art as this is to see it as a reality, a personal reality. If art is the language in which we try to comprehend the incomprehensible, like children babbling, what makes it unique for each and everyone of us also separates us. There is a selfishness to art, as beliefs are, as reality is: it cannot be shared wholly by the artist to the world. Even if you made a stand that this is what I did, and this is who I am, would the world care? Would anyone? I WANT to believe that the world would. But the thing is, the artist is alone in his world, and it is not the world we all live in. There is not a single world. Each of us has a different world. What would eternity care for us? The artist? Could it even care for humankind, or is it a romanticized metaphor? I am not raising an argument, but only speaking my fears in knowing we will pass on, and being the one ephemeral is a very frightening thing. How many artists are there in our college? I am one out of what number? A number large enough to be infinite. How many names are there in the art books? How many are remembered? If there is but one form in which we would last, it is in remembrance. Those that are not remembered are lost. Can you even ask yourself how many have been lost versus those whose names are writ? Will yours be? Who will remember what your, or my art, was?

Forgive, I ramble. And I have yet to answer your comment in my last essay, which I have yet to find time to answer. <:)

artquest1 said...

Hi Bunnicula,
A very thought provoking response.
You are obviously correct that the very fact that one exists (has existed) presupposes you have also made a mark upon eternity. It is not only your physical self, but also the responses others have (positive, negative or total indifference) and certainly genetically (be you so inclined to participate in the exchange).
My thoughts in ArtQuest are focused, not so much as an absolute (everyone and every thing makes its mark), but from a sense of the personal. I suppose I am dealing with the idea of intention – through your art, you consciously and with purpose, interject a bit of yourself into the mix – you become that butterfly in the Amazon jungle.
While the dedicated, practicing artist may indeed wonder if anyone cares what he/she says or produces, the aspiring artist, the person who has not yet dared, not yet committed the audacious act of “arting” (we need a verb, here) may well be functioning on a much more personal level of doubt. Their question comes closer to being “Do I HAVE anything to say, and do I care enough to take the risk?”
What I feel that I have to say to everyone who is dreaming of producing art, as well as those wondering how to, laboring to develop skill to, and yes, even those who wonder if any one cares, is: IT DOESN’T CHANGE ANYTHING, whether they care or not. The bottom line is that art is always personal and comes out of the individual not the collective contentiousness’ or value system. Of course, art objects have the possibility of becoming well known, venerated and certainly desirable in terms of “collectability” or monetary value, but that is the commodity aspect of art. It has little to do with why we do it (or shouldn’t – there I said it).
I hope to hear from you again. Bob