Why Art?

In my last blog post, I posed a question that a child had asked me when I told him that I was making a painting. “Why?”

Why art at all? The other day, my six year old was asking me about different jobs adults have. As we went through a rather generic list, he noted the importance of each: teachers, firemen, the cashier at our local grocery. Eventually, with a thoughtful look on his face, he said, “Mom, we don’t really need artists, do we?” Well, yes and no, I answered as I fumbled through an explanation of the difference between our corporeal and spiritual needs.

I’m sure I am not alone in this, but there is hardly a day that passes that I don’t ask myself if what I’m doing is important, if it matters– great ideas fall flat, inspiration dries up, paintings look trite or gaudy, or they don’t happen at all.

It’s easy to worry too much about grandeur, and since art is meant to be seen, easy to get to caught up in how it is seen. Why do it at all? I think it’s because I can. Because creating new work leaves physical evidence that I am in touch with the world around me, responding to it, needing it, part of it. It’s not because I have something magical to impose upon it, but that I can, however imperfectly, participate in it.

Why. The fact that there are so many divergent answers speaks to the richness of the concept itself. But always, there seems to be this idea of connection– to others, to oneself. In a world where we can so often feel like a Walker Percy protagonist– isolated, floating around in ideas, art connects us to the present, the past, ourselves, and one another. Like a pencil tied to the end of a balloon, or maybe just the string between the two, it can keep us from drifting off into nowhere by anchoring us to something or someone.

I’m going to keep thinking about this elusive, simple, complicated “why?” but for now I will leave you with a few of the answers I received in my last post:

“The art on our walls stimulates my imagination. I either imagine being in the scene or wonder about the lives of the people in the painting, or if it is a painting we bought on vacation, I daydream about the trip. Some of our paintings are old friends now.”

“Art: I make it, I study it, I buy it, and I love it. Why? You are right Denise, it is a very good question. For me, I think the answer is simple though. Art is the embodiment of passion for living… in sound, image, form. I “feel” deeply and, when art touches that, it is a part of me.”

“Making art & enjoying art brings about many emotions. Without it I would not be complete. It fills me in a way that nothing else can.”

“I don’t make art like you do, but I do in other craft/sewing projects. It’s an escape for me. Taking on 2 new crafty techniques in the next 2 weeks.”