Monday, November 17, 2008

Art Does More Than You Realize

Art Does More Than You Realize

A blog reader recently asked a few open questions about the role of art and artists within the context of society. Her comments were spurred by a topic that dealt with how the recent economic struggles have caused a sense of panic within the artworld. She stated, “I don't even know if it is important if artist are around. Thats the feeling I get. What good does art really do? Can you tell me that?”. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have an opinion on the matter. Art is good for society as a whole. With that said, I feel that I should project some of my thoughts about the importance of visual art as well as the importance of art related skills, such as drawing, within the context of the world as we know it. Our lives would be very different if art-- be it fine, concept, or other-- did not exist.

In my opinion, art is the lifeblood of civilization. Thus, I view art as social and cultural vitality. If we think back on past civilizations we can observe the importance of art and the skills related with artistic creation. Throughout history art has facilitated the advancement of science and commerce as well as the different aspects of our day-to-day lives. Without art we would not see any progression-- there would be no advancements-- society would decline, wither in confusion, and eventually die. In this scenario-- if the creation of art were to cease completely-- the world would be thrown into chaos. Civilization would be stripped of its intellectual and economic endurance-- civilization, encumbered by the ignorance that would stem from this scenario, would be gone. Humanity as we know it could cease to exist.

These thoughts-- as radical or farfetched as they may seem-- are core to my philosophy concerning the importance of art and artists within the context of society. To put it bluntly, advancements in visual language and tradition tend to push society forward. Fine art and commercial art often walk in hand-in-hand as far as individual inspiration is concerned-- so both play a role in advancing society. Thus, if these aspects of artistic creation were to stop we would witness cultural and societal stagnation-- more so than what some of us already feel has occurred-- the world as we know it would take a step back, followed by another step back, and would eventually fall. With that in mind, art does good because it serves as a pillar of intellectual and economic growth.

I don’t think people realize how important art is to the intellectual growth of society. Imagine what the world would be like without the different aspects of visual art and the impact it would have on our intellect and ability to educate ourselves. In the above mentioned scenario our collective imagination-- the ideas that are common within us-- would become dull, our individual imagination would be in peril, the continuation of scientific studies and advancements would be hindered, production lines of new items would stop, we would have to once again rely on oral traditions instead of visual language and visual traditions. Sadly, I don’t think the generations alive today would thrive in that scenario. Academically speaking-- visual art has long nurtured other studies. Some will go as far as to say that without a focus on visual art humankind would have never pursued the sciences. Again, art is vitality!

The creation of art and the skills that are primarily utilized within the context of artistic creation have proven to be of importance with economic growth as well. Every manmade item we see or touch has at one point involved some aspect of art and said skills-- the products we buy and the labels upon them all start out as sketches and concept work at an earlier time, the movies we view involve some level of visual art, the video games we play rely heavily on art, the buildings we visit and dwell involve aspects of these skills, the clothing we wear may have started out as a coffee stained preliminary drawing, and the monitor before you as you read these words was nothing more than a concept design in the past. Thus, commerce would be shattered if artists, architects, and designers ceased the utilization of visual art skills. Art is good because it is the basis of economic growth.

Various aspects of visual art, specifically the skill of drawing, have long served the advancement of civilization. This is not to suggest that every artist or person who utilizes visual art is above anyone else. In other words, we can’t all be treated as the pillars of civilization. However, I do think that on some level each and every artist plays a certain role in advancing and maintaining this infrastructure-- the bones holding together society and culture-- at least in thought and within their generation. It is the continuation of a visual tradition that builds from one generation to the next. Perhaps that is why it seems that artists often feel that they have an inborn need to put ideas to paper, canvas, or upon some other surface-- a survival trait that dictates that so many individuals within a population will feel driven to pursue these skills-- to pursue art.

In closing, I suppose the key point to remember is that without visual language-- without the ongoing tradition of visual art and other aspects of art in general-- society would have never reached the point it is at today. Society would surely decline if artistic creation and the use of various skills involved with the art making process were to cease. People tend to not appreciate something until it is gone. In that sense visual art and the skills used by artists are often taken for granted by the population as a whole.

The trick is not to expect respect or outright reverence-- hardly any of us will obtain that no matter what we accomplish. That goes for fine artists as well as anyone who utilizes aspects of visual art within their profession. For example, I doubt the average person could name the architect behind some of the common building designs that we have come to expect… or the mastermind behind character designs for a major motion picture. Think of it this way, you have won half the battle if the art you create-- or at least the process of artistic creation-- is important to you. You have done good with art if someone discovers your work and enjoys it-- even if that person does not know your name.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


self taught artist said...

Brian, I am blown away by all you wrote. This is something I will have to come back to often and read it until it filters into my consciousness. To be honest, I'm hearing what you are saying on a bigger picture, historic level but still struggling with the personal level. Meaning how do I believe what I am doing matters. (even though I have no choice and must keep doing it)
The art world is changing, has changed, and will continue to change...right now I feel like EVERYONE is an artist and I struggle with feeling overwhelmed by all that stuff out there, how can there be room for us all? Who will buy what I make when there are a zillion other artists clamoring for sales?

This was a fantastic post. Thank you for educating me.

Donald Frazell said...

We have been having a very long and complicated series of threads at about this very thing, the essence of art. it is in the two articles about god, the epitome of arts focus, and Damien Hirst the pit of what it is when served for man alone, his wants, desires, greed, selfishness. And Why artists now so often feel hollow, useless, meaningless. Art is there fo help many feel, to be one with each other, and the universe with god. This is its main role in civilization, as others have their roles, bakers, banker, military men, Farmers, weavers, school teachers.

We have a role, but it is not taught in the academies, which are only interested in their own survival and growth. Learn the past, who we are, where we come from, to understand where we might be going. Be of the now, but know, you are nothing without what has come before. We are but one singular moment in mankinds growth, it is our role to serve that growth, to visualize it, to motivate, to bind and prosper as WE, US, not I or me.

Art collegia delenda est, for they are the foundations of selfish mediocrity.

Lisa Mikulski said...

Brian, This post was excellent. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. Along with all the profound social, political and educational aspects of art which you state here... you seem to have forgotten... Art can sometimes just be absolutely break your heart beautiful. Who wants to live in a world without beauty?

Robert Girandola said...

Great post - thank you. One of the things I try and do is think how I can simply receive and respond through my art and know that it is totally unique - rather than thinking about all the other people who might be 'out there' making art.

Kelly Bonadies said...

This is a fantastic time to be an artist, now more than ever. Paradigmatic shifts occur as societies progress, every time advancing the need for creative thought over limited skill labor. Technological advancements have been able to compete with human productivity but not with our creativity. So to all of you Charlie Browns with your heads down, pick your head up and realize your advantage! There are great opportunities now to capitalize on your talent and to share it with others. Here are some ideas:

-A gallery is not the only place to display your art. Put it up at coffee shops, local restaurants, businesses or other shops. There is so much more foot traffic, people that would never come to an opening could become big fans of your work. -Get a small group together to put on a show. In every town, I am sure there is some awesome empty space that could be rented out for a one night show.
-First and foremost you have to put things in perspective, the internet can be an overwhelming place for an artist. But don't let it intimidate you or fool you. It can prove invaluable as a tool for getting your work to places and people you never thought possible. Thanks to Brian and others.
-There are many places online that artists can sell their work, from their own website to ebay and everywhere in between.
-Make limited edition, numbered and signed, prints (digital fine art paper is nice) of your work and sell those at shows or online. People are funny, they will buy something if it sounds important. Especially something that is affordable and original.

Above all, be confident and glad you are an artist and not an auto worker right now. The need for creativity is popping up in the most unexpected places and will continue to do so, throughout this shift in our economy.

Sorry if this was a bit long.