For or Against Art
It was mid-week and if my memory serves me, early afternoon, and we are all sitting around a Formica table waiting for a few stragglers to drift in so the meeting could start. The content of the meeting is now a fuzzy memory
As with most meetings, there was the ritualistic pre-meeting banter, just the normal social niceties. Then someone leaned over and asked if I was for or against the funding of public art? I didn’t know how to answer that question. This caught me off guard so I asked, “What you mean by art?”
Someone else sitting at the table, politely eavesdropping, burst forth with a pronouncement that would have made a two year old proud.
“I know it when I see it!”
I asked, “Is this true?” My question remained unanswered as the self-proclaimed art critic found distraction with their phone. Was this a sensible action considering the impropriety of my question? Of course, they knew what art was when they saw it. I now felt silly for asking the question.
Still the question loomed regarding my stance on public art. The minutes ticked by as the individual prompted my answer with the word, “So…..”
Hearing the word “so” prompted permission to share my thoughts.
Art whether it is dance, sculpture, music, painting all have a vocabulary. To understand such expression you must be familiar with the vocabulary for there to be comprehension and meaning. Just because someone does not understand a medium, it does not invalidate the language. This is the equivalent of saying that any language I cannot read or understand it is not a language.
The letters we use to write and form words are no less important than painted shapes on a canvas or the notes that make up a melody. Because of the depth of this vocabulary, there will be always be certain ideas best expressed through artistic expression.
Human have been expressing themselves like this for about the last 30,000 years. There are some artistic vernaculars are easier to access than others are. A graphic novel has the ability to open its arms to the reader through a combination of words and pictures. Moreover, the minimalist art of abstract painter Ad Reinhardt might hold you at arm’s length and demand a viewer seek a deeper understanding and context.
I guess it’s safe to say I am for the funding of public art. Art is part of our humanity and it is intrinsically ingrained in our being. To deny art is to deny our humanness.
This is a fictionalized version of many conversations that I have had around this topic over the years. There was no paint spilled in the writing of this blog post. Any similarities is purely coincidental.