Simplifying Art

Watch a preschool classroom in action and you’ll know that art is a primary form of communication. From that young age, we are in pursuit of a way to share our feelings and our aspirations, a way to give form to the abstract. As we grow older, of course, art becomes part of a social domain and we tend to grow more anxious about what we like and how to express it. Museum walks are relatively easy: someone else has curated an assortment and provides the reasons as to why the work is worthy of our attention. But acquiring art of any kind - vintage posters, oil paintings, photographs - can produce as much trepidation as inspiration. There’s often a fear of committing to one perspective and, worse, to assigning a price tag of any sort of aesthetic. But choosing art isn’t all that much different than buying books, clothes, or paint colors. Some people like the comfort of a familiar image; others like to be challenged. Sometimes style is consistent and, other times, style is defined by a changing perspective. 

I would argue, however, that art is as necessary as education itself. Some of that is simply in our upbringing: as gallery owners, our parents were insistent that the world could be made better by seeing someone else’s point of view - and all the better if that perspective is beautifully optimistic. But beyond that, I’ve always felt that art of any form operates in much the same way that math and science do: it strives to make order of the chaotic experience of being human. I remember seeing Degas’ bronze ballerinas when I was a child and being struck by the fixed form of something so fluid. It’s that study in improbable, harmonious contrast that broadens our horizons and allows us to think we can be more than a single persona or, better, we can be a series of alternating, sometimes opposing traits. I have long given up the goal of being one thing to all people and I take a lot of joy in choosing art that reminds me there is more to see, more to consider, and more room to grow. The lessons are certainly varied: a still-life might remind you that there are miracles in ordinary objects; the abstracts - focused more on color than form - can offer a space more ethereal than reality.

This is all, ultimately, to say that art doesn’t have to be any more intimidating than anything else that adds value to your life. If it soothes, validates, or gets you thinking, it’s worth viewing. That’s one of the very best things about creative work: it confirms what we know to be true, or it allows us to aspire to more than what we currently are. Even in artistic quandary, there is always the belief that hope is all around us.