Seeing the artwork and the artists performing at our monthly Green Drinks +ART inspired me to write this post.
I’m an amateur artist. I write songs about once every two year on average. Some are mediocre, some I really like. I also make tie dye shirts, which for me is a kind of art because with each shirt I’m thinking about what I want it to be, and how the colors will interplay, and also how it will be seen. I don’t like tie dyes because I’m some hippie dude (although my kids think I am), I just like patterns of bright or rich colors, and I like to see people wearing them. Finally, I write blog entries like this one, to express thoughts I think worth sharing.
So I make a dozen tie dyes every year or so, and record my songs, and write these short essays whenever they coalesce in my head, but I don’t sell them or promote them. I really admire artists who do.
Art, for me, is about reflection, optimism, and inspiration. An artist spends time reflecting on their experience of the world and society around them, and tries to make it mean something. That’s where the optimism comes in. When we look at the entire universe, and what happens in it, there really is no meaning to it all: it simply happens. The most vital gift of humanity is that we try to find patterns, and meaning, and beauty in the world around us, and we succeed! The meaning really comes from within us. And so meaning is clearly individual. And amazingly we often find meaning that others share as well.
Our lives don’t need to have meaning. We are born, we have children, we die. We perpetuate our species, in competition with other species. This happens on a cooling ball of lava in a universe of incomprehensible size. That can be all there is, or we can choose for it to be more.
A work of art (written, visual, performance, etc.) creates something of meaning in a meaningless world, and so inspires us. It inspires us to see that meaning elsewhere. It inspires us to do work of value, that helps ourselves and others to not just exist, but exult in the experience of life. It inspires us to change what we do to promote what we value.
We should all be amateur artists. We all experience the world in our own way, and have perspectives and values that carry us through our lives. We should share them with others, and be willing to adapt or expand our own views in response to others artistic views. And as a viewer, or reader, or audience, we should not be passive. Our personal interpretation of others artistic work is an essential part of the creation of meaning.
A professional artist does something more. By their example they are saying that meaning is not just something you have in your head, it is something you create in the world around you. They are stating that this creation of meaning is important, and though it takes time and practice, it is worth the effort. And finally, they have the courage to say “my interpretation of the world has value”, and are willing to share it. They do this knowing that what they create is of immeasurable worth, and yet its monetary value will probably be small.
We can’t all create artistic works all the time. We need time to prepare food and eat it, we need clothes to keep us warm, we need shelter to keep us safe and dry. We need time to create these things, or we need to do work of some value to others to acquire them. And we all need time to nurture children, reflect on our lives, help others in need, and, of course, to sleep.
But I salute those that commit to self reflection and the creation of art full time. They inspire us to see the meaning in our lives, encourage us to keep it present throughout the day, and make life the fulfilling, exciting, and beautiful experience it ought to be.