Why is Art Important?

This has been a subject of mine that I’ve grown more passionate about over the years.  I did graduate from an art school so my relationship to the art world comes from first hand experience, and as a filmmaker who utilizes composition, color and design in my work, art is still a part of my daily life.

Andy Warhol said “Art is what you can get away with,” and though I don’t personally agree with that statement, it sure did work out fine for Warhol.  For me, art is something made by a person or persons that moves people.  Even if it’s just for a moment in time, to be impacted by a work of art is outstanding.  It can be a patron standing in front of a Renaissance painting, a theatre goer breaking into tears during a powerful performance, a poem being read at a wedding or a funeral, or even a handmade sweater from grandma.  Art compels people.  It makes them laugh, or cry, or best: think.  Art creates a dialogue, sometimes an internal monologue, it changes the way we think or the way we see.  Art is what’s left of artists after they leave this earth, like the paintings of Van Gough or Rembrandt or Rothko.  

Art is subjective.  It’s not likely anything that anyone makes will be universally liked or even understood.  It’s a response to the time, it’s encapsulating a moment, it’s color and light and dark and more, and sometimes less.  It’s conceptual, or void of concept.  It’s beautiful and disturbing and guttural and light hearted.  It affects the viewer, the artist, sometimes the community, or even the world.  

Some of my favorite photography is from Dorothea Lange, a photojournalist who documented people during the great depression.  For her, the photographs were a document, a black and white straightforward representation of what was going on at the time.  But for me, it’s art at it’s best.  Her work is great from a technical standpoint, but she also captured the struggle of people going hungry, wearing rags as clothes, and wondering when their next meal would be.  It was instances in history that happened nearly a century ago in America, and sadly still occurs today all over the world.  Yes, it is a document of the time, but it’s hard to look at her work and be unmoved.  Those bits in time will now last forever on printed paper because she was there to capture them.  Students learning about The Depression are able to see first hand what these people went through when they look at those photos.  That is powerful.

I didn’t have the best history teachers in high school, but the ones in college were phenomenal, and everything I retained about history I learned in my art history courses.  If it weren’t for the sculptures discovered by archaeologists dating back to up to 30,000-27,000 years ago, our understanding of the past would be diminished.  What would be in museums without art?  Without sculptures and paintings and photographs and lithos and jewelry and clothing and inventions?  It’s fascinating to look through paintings over the years and see the way early painters would interpret perspectives, until one point, two point, and three point perspective was discovered and accurately rendered.  

There’s also the technological and utilitarian products that we see everywhere that were made to be more visually appealing.  We all wear clothing that was created by designers, some of us follow trends and check to see what colors will be in season.  Most of us use smart phones or computers, with aesthetically pleasing visual set ups and interfaces made to be user friendly.  We listen to music on our devices which was composed by musical artists.  We hang pictures in our homes, and get furniture that compliments it, and paint the walls colors we like because we want our dwellings to look nice.  Color and visual appearance comes into play much more than we could ever imagine. 

Acting is one of my favorite art forms.  From the times of Ancient Greece when people would hold festivals to honor their gods, to classical theatre, to the more modern film and television industry, chances are that every single person reading this has seen someone act.  Nearly everyone has a favorite film, or T.V. show, and be it a comedy, drama, horror, fantasy, or other genre, it’s able to evoke emotions from people because of how the actors makes them feel.  One of my favorite things is to see a character put into words an exact feeling that I’ve experienced before but was unable to articulate it.  It’s a tremendous thing to have your heart strings pulled on by your favorite character’s death, or to celebrate it when the villain gets what is coming to him, or just to laugh hysterically.  And after studying acting and performing in short films and plays, I can assure you that it’s arduous work, a lot process, and a huge effort for the actors and directors and production or stage crew to take a script off the paper and create something that will suspend reality for the time it takes the viewer to watch a performance.

Basically everything I have said thus far pertains to art being a healthy escape for all involved in it’s making.  It’s a chance for the artist to convey his message, and for the viewer to feel something different and gain a new perspective.  It’s a chance for people to learn history.  It’s even a chance to create history.  Art reminds us that we are not alone.  That we share the same feelings, and that we can share them together.  It’s subjective and lovely and sorrowful and beautiful and dark, and it will always change, but still in some facets, forever stay the same.  

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