What Art is, and What is Art.

January 3, 2008
“You made such a mess!” My friend laughed at me. We were painting sets for a production of Man of La Mancha. Paintbrush in hand, I looked down to see what he was talking about. I had, as I often did, gotten splatters of the black paint all over my shirt and my shorts and myself. I looked like a mess. One of our painting leaders looked over at me and smiled at my disastrous look. “She’s an artist,” was the explanation she offered in my defense. I was a little surprised: while I loved art, I would never have considered myself an artist. But I was honored, too, because to be an artist to me means to be brave, because artists create art.

John Chamberlain, a twentieth century sculptor, defined art as “a liaison between some type of deranged mentality and those not going through it.” While artists aren’t always deranged, art is always a liaison. Art connects people. Art is the emotions and feelings and experiences of one on display for another to see and feel and experience. Art takes something existing only in one’s mind and turns it into reality – it is the evolution from intangible to concrete.

Art functions to help people express themselves when nothing else will work. Art is often the sole way the artist can articulate himself. There are times when simple words are inadequate or incomplete. Art is for these times, the times when color and harmony and movement are the only way to capture your feelings. There are times when people feel color and harmony and movement where the words have only been heard, and then art has successfully connected the artist with the viewers.

Art is the representation of one’s inner self, and no one is always beautiful or even ordinary. Because of this, there is often controversy surrounding the word art. People tend to shy away from things called art because there are certain subjects broached in art with which we are uncomfortable. However, certain things, like rape, violence, war and lust are very real parts of people’s lives. When an artist creates a sensual piece depicting a nude woman, or a twisted painting of the horror of war, people are offended. These topics need to be artistically approached because while people may ignore politicians or “important people” who try to raise awareness of things, there’s something about a stirring song or a shocking, twisted painting that makes them stop and think. People may not want to think about these topics, but the good and evil of art is that it cannot be controlled. The minute there are limits put on art, it stops existing, because how can you limit a soul?

There are many examples of things that can be defined as art. Art is much more than paintings and sketches. Music is art, and so are dances, photography, architecture, and advertising. Film and tattoos and graffiti and quilts and even tiny doodles in the margins of notebooks are art. Anytime one takes the time to create a physical representation of something living in their heart, they have created art.

One common misconception about art is that it has to be beautiful. People tend to believe that to be considered art, the work in question has to have some beauty or attractiveness. But if Keats said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, who then becomes the judge of what is beautiful and therefore art? One man’s beauty may be another man’s boring or another man’s ugly.
Because of the fact that art is so judged, artists are very brave people. When they create art because they take their innermost feelings and their fears, thoughts, dreams, all the things that we are taught to keep inside, and put them on display for the world. They are fully aware that some people love their work but many will criticize, ridicule, and belittle them. But, because they are strong and take those risks, the world has art.

And the world needs this art. Picture yourself in an outdated hospital. The hallway is white, sterile, barren of any color. Few people enjoy spending time in places like these – the absence of art is blatantly apparent. In the lack of art, the hospital is made much scarier than it already was. However, in our time, most hospitals display art within their walls. Patients and their families can gaze at this art, and nowadays it is installed because of the healing power that art can. For these suffering people, art can be a distraction from the sadness or scariness they are going through – it takes them out of their own worried minds and puts them in somebody else’s.
In the same way that hospitals need art, the world needs art for one principle reason: it heals. Art provides the artist with a means to deal with hurts and wrongs that have been dealt to him. The person experiencing art can also be healed, because a joyful peace of art can make a sorrowful day sweeter. When an artist portrays a wrongdoing or a crime, the world is aware of its occurrence and can try to heal the problem. Without this healing, without art, how will we be able to better our world?

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