Making Art in a Chaotic World

In college, my art professor once defined art as organized chaos. I’ve thought about that definition for years. I think about it when I look at the river landscapes around me or the light shining on my son’s hair when we are getting a post-school snowball: how would I organize these colors and shapes on a flat surface?

Right now, the world itself feels chaotic. I am terrified of nuclear war, Neo-Nazi rallies, hurricanes that destroy lives and homes. I’ve seen and admired other artists engage with the absolutely terrifying parts of the world in a way I don’t yet feel equipped to.

Art has been my escape from chaos– my retreat, not away from the world but more deeply into it’s more harmonious elements– the shapes, lines, and colors of nature when it doesn’t seem at war with itself. My art is the blue heron before it violently devours an unassuming fish or before it itself gets bloodied and consumed by an alligator.

I realize this is all a bit much, but nature isn’t always peaceful. I forget that a lot. I’m not suggesting we disengage from the world’s terrors (what a privilege it is for those of us who even have that option). This post isn’t an answer so much as a question: how do I make art in a chaotic and painful world? 

There are times when it feels laughable to devote emotional energy to painting a heron. There are other times when it feels like a meditation, like praying– maybe if I can make sense of this space, this potential beauty, I might make sense of the bigger spaces I find so terrifying.

Your thoughts are always welcome.