Never underestimate the power of Art.
Art should push boundaries, it should be controversial. If it’s not forcing people to think, to object, to question, to wonder then it’s not doing its job. Art is prophetic. It has the ability to change atmospheres and to disturb realities.
Art like creativity is hard to quantify and difficult to measure but its obvious when its missing.
Offices, suburbs, homes that are artless are soulless. They are often devoid of atmosphere and are sterile empty spaces. We value art yet we don’t want to support it or to pay for it. We love it but its the first to go in a budget cut or a ‘re-structure’. We don’t understand it. To many it is a mysterious force, difficult to make sense of, therefore it is dispensable.
People like to box it, to understand it. What does this mean? What is it saying? What did you mean when your wrote these lyrics? For some people, unless you can quantify art, box it up, it loses its meaning and therefore its value which is outrageously sad.
Once I worked hard on a twin piece of art work which I wanted to donate to our church staff space. The pieces were about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Full of nervous excitement I bought them into work to put up in the private office foyer space. We placed it on the walls and staff popped out of their offices to look and talk and exclaim. It was messy, it was exciting, to some it was confronting. Death is. On the canvass about the crucifixion I had used barbed wire to accentuate the image. Here are the pictures that now hang in my bedroom.
One canvass was on death amplifying the chaos, the pain, the darkness, the void.
The other on resurrection illustrated new life, growth, birth, metamorphasis.
It was a huge shock to me a few weeks later when I was asked into a meeting. Several staff members had made official written complaints about the art work. They believed it to be a health hazard. I was told: “What if a staff member fell on the wall and was pierced by the barb wire”?
It’s true, if someone had taken a run and planted themselves on the wall they could have harmed themselves on the wire. However, extremely unlikely. In all the quiet passive aggressive discussions that ensued afterward I was asked to take the art down. My supervisor, who was incredibly supportive and who loved the pieces, asked if he could put them up in his office. I was too distressed at the time to respond so took the pieces home. I was cut to the core. (Eventually I did bring them back in and they went up in the Artworx department office).
The lesson that I learned from this is that some people prefer order and systems than creativity. It’s interesting that in a Christian environment the portrait of the death of Christ was offensive. The death of Christ is offensive and is supposed to offend us. It is messy, it is dangerous, it is full of paradox and contradiction. This was very publicly and clearly demonstrated to me. People like neat, they like safety, they like control.
So, for all of you budding artists out there. Don’t be discouraged if people don’t like your work. Keep creating. Keep on the cutting edge. Keep telling the stories, keep writing the songs, keep speaking the poems. We desperately need your perspective and your vision. The world needs artists and their interpretation of the world.
“Art is a different value system. Like God, it fails us continually. Like God, we have legitimate doubts about its existence but, like God, art leaves us with footprints of beauty. We sense there is more to life than the material world can provide, and art is a clue, an intimation, at its best, a transformation. We don’t need to believe in it, but we can experience it”(Jeanette Winterson).
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