Thursday, May 22, 2014

What Is Art?

" What Is Art?" 
 graphite on Canson
Mary Ann Laing

I've been meaning to write this thought process I have been in for a while, meaning to write for a while that is, the process is ongoing, never stops.  However, due to physical and mental exhaustion, it's been inside my mental word processor instead of on paper.  Fatigue does slow down the creative thinking.  I could hardly find my own name nevermind the correct words to use for my thought process.

So, once again, I ponder the subject of art.  What is art?  Having just looked up the word in the dictionary, I see even Sir Webster and Lord Oxford couldn't figure out how to describe this vast  topic completely.  One definition reads " the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."  Another definition of the meaning of art says " The meaning of art is a way for a person to express their creativity. Painting and sculpting is a form of art. Art is designed for people to explore artistic thoughts."  Oh, so that's all there is to it.

I wonder why something so complicated falls into such simple terms.  It's a justa thing.  Justa nuther way to explore personal thoughts.  Justa nuther way to make something pretty to put on a wall.  Justa nuther act of creating a noise people want to listen to.  Justa nuther way to make a living.  Is anyone who ventures to do these things considered an artist?  No, not going on that tangent, I need to stay focused on my original process, right.

For me, I have come to understand many levels of this thing we do called Art.  Aging does grant us extra levels of understanding.  My experience in making art has taken many turns along the way. I understand well now how involved the ego is in this kind of work.  Having said that, I sound like I am saying that all forms of work are something I know a lot about, I don't. I have no idea how a ship builder feels about his work, or a brick layer, or a lawyer. I suspect egos get involved in all kinds of work.  But with art, it's so personal.  Nothing straight forward and regulated.  We don't make our art and have it passed by the board of artist inspection first to prove it's art. That gets decided by our own learned eye, our own fragile ego, our own needs for outside approval.  I can think of lots of paintings I wish I didn't scrap because someone told me they didn't like it.  Why did I allow someone else to decide if it was art or not?  Maybe it wasn't great, but maybe it was important for that time in my art producing.  It was made for a reason, and I should be the only one who gets to decide if that reason was for art.  If I scrapped it on my own free deciding will, that's different.  Most of the trashed ones are best there, in the trash, but some I wonder about.

My life is encircled with all forms of art right now.  I sing in a very good choir that performs classical works written by great composers.  We are not long over Brahm's Requiem that we performed with the Victoria Symphony.  Sometimes, inside moments of struggle and huge awareness of being far behind others, I'd wonder how I got there.  Often, while in the momentum of singing under the direction of our director, Peter Butterfield, or Maestra Tania Miller, I would be in complete amazement in how I could walk into this without the years of music education.  I don't think a doctor or an architect can do that, just walk in and do it for the pure enjoyment of it, not legally anyways.  But in Art, this kind of experience can happen to a novice like me.
Another place is here where I can expend some personal urges to write, another art form.  No, I have not explored being educated any further in writing than Grade 12 English.  I sound like those old people who brag about how good they are at things, the best in their class, and that class happened about 50 years ago.  Yes, my English teacher told me I was a great writer.  Does that mean I am a certified writer?  No.  But I love to write, so I do it because I can.  Not everything should be enjoyed only after we are given a license to do it first.  Whether I am GOOD or not is a whole other blog.  And to find that out would take more than kind, or not so kind, opinions from family and friends.  I have thought of taking some writing courses.  Putting my pencil naked to her peers, take the criticisms, and from there, grow with it.  Let me see, paint, sing, piano, garden, life in general, maybe I'll put a hold on that one for a bit.

So where does this all lead to, you may ask?  Well, back to my original question, what is Art?  I believe it is an extension of who we are besides the obvious.  Those of us who claim to be artists tend to not choose it, not exactly, anyways.  It's something that happens inside of us long before we find ourselves in the soprano section of painters (oh, doncha love metaphors).  It can be a calling to tell of our culture.  It may be a lust to share our appreciation of things in life.  It could be a way to connect with earth and all of it's living beings.  Somewhere after I was given my first breath, I knew Art was going to burden me the rest of my life.  I used to think I was odd, and slow, and different.  I used to get into trouble at school often for being too happy, constantly daydreaming while I stared out the window with a glazed look on my face.  I was often accused of being on drugs, I wasn't on drugs, I was naturally like that. And I could draw for hours and hours on anything, pages in my books, covers of the binders.  It wasn't always a thing to be proud of, got me into trouble a lot.  But some teachers saw something in me.  I figure the A's in Art and English said something.  The E's in Math and Science and Home Ec, well...they just didn't get me, yeah, that was it.

Of course, all of this "born an artist" thinking doesn't necessarily confirm we will become that.  I could say I was born to be a singer but chose to paint instead.  Our life circumstances do help carve the path for us. I have been fortunate to always have encouragement.  I have been blessed with a life where I was able to follow my needs to create my art.  It's never been easy.  Joyfully painful it has been a lot of the time, but not easy.  I still struggle with time, never enough time to paint and produce.  I still stare out the window in deep wonders of so many things about life. My purpose as a human being who probably should be painting, but instead she dreams of turning words into art.  Or go and try to sing that complete score with apparent ease.  Right, work on making it sound easy.  Creating beauty must also appear effortless, and that's so much work, I wonder if I'll ever get there.

I think I answered my question, that's what Art is.  My brushes are singing to me....

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