The question that is always in the back of my mind when I create art is, what is this for? Who does this help? Will it make a difference to anyone else or is this just a self-gratifying hobby that I have? I don't make political statements with my work. I don't have religious calls to action. I don't have a 'cause' that I am trying to advocate. My work is abstract; how does this help anyone?
Not everyone is concerned about the impact their work has and they can be completely satisfied knowing that they are doing something for themselves and enjoying their time. Why is this not the case for me?
I don't have a complete answer yet, however, I found part of an answer recently.
I was listening to a podcast with an interview about Kenneth Hartvigsen, (link below), an art history professor Brigham Young University, and there were several things that he said in this interview that resonated with me.
He talked a lot about how art is an invitation to think and feel. As we look at any art form, we pause, we look, and we have reactions to what we are seeing that allow us to ask questions or feel things. It is a moment in time to see something from someone else's perspective and as a result, we have a personal feeling or experience with the piece of art as well. Maybe it triggers a happy memory for us, and we feel that joy again. It creates emotions within us simply by our looking and thinking. This isn't something we do often enough in our society. Pause, look, and feel. But we need to notice the details, notice our reaction to the details, notice the emotions we are having and give ourselves time to explore what they have to offer us.
This was such a beautiful and important message, but it brought me back to the unanswered question, What about abstract art, and where does that fit in?
Hartvigsen recalled a story of an early art history class that he had taken and when modern and contemporary art pieces were the subject matter and another student in the class complained about how the art didn't make sense. The teacher's response, as quoted by Hartvigsen, was, "Did World War I makes sense? Did the Great Depression make sense? Did World War II make sense? She said, Why should the artists make sense when they're in a world that doesn't make sense."
That phrase was palpable. Why should the artists make sense when they're in a world that doesn't make sense?
Is this not true of how and where we live today? There are an infinite number of things happening in the world right now that do not make sense to me. Hatred. Wars. Mental health struggles. Poverty.
Why does art need to make sense? Truthfully, it doesn't. Abstract art can be a way to make sense of things when things don't make sense. A release of the confusion that is inside our souls. A release of emotions in the hopes that we can make space for the things that do make sense in our lives.
The last thing that I wanted to share from Hartvigsen, I can't articulate better than he did so I'll leave his direct words.
"It doesn't matter the political environment that they live in the religious context in which they worship, all human beings create things that we consider art...sometimes people think of art as something that is purely a luxury. They think of art as something only tied to leisure time, and leisure activities, that it's something elitist...but I don't think those things can be true, because if they were true, we wouldn't always do it. If it was simply about luxury, and simply about how we spend our leisure time, people wouldn't create art in hunter-gatherer societies, people wouldn't create art,...when they are under political oppression, people wouldn't create art, in prisons, and in hospitals, or during conflict. But they do...And the fact that we are moved to continually create these things in our best and our worst times...is not something only for the elite in society. This is something for all of us."
Art is for everyone. It doesn't have to make sense.
Invite someone to think and feel.
Notice the details.
React to what you feel.
Art matters. Creativity matters. Experiences with beautiful things matter.
"All In and LDS Living Podcast" Kenneth Hartvigsen: Experiencing Art in an Intimate Way
Oh Hey! it's me, Amy
These are stories about my art, experiences I've had in my career, and some other fun stuff too. I will probably overshare, I can't help it when I'm writing. Get cozy, these are great rainy day reads!