Why Art? Part Two: New Eyes or How many times must a man look up Before he can see the sky?
“Why art?” is the subject of frequent conversation for those immersed in the art world, all struggling to figure out why they are compelled to do what they do or trying to find ways to make their own work more significant.
This is the second installment of an ongoing dialogue wrestling with that question from a variety of perspectives. Expect to read different views on it from this author and with any luck any number of other contributors over time. That said, this column is open to feedback, input, discussion – email comments to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
(For Why Art? Part One: The Big Yellow Taxi Theory or Mr. Cope Goes to Turkmenistan please click here)
Why Art? Part Two: New Eyes
Artists (and within that category those involved more generally in creative thought) are often seen as “frontier scouts”, sort of the early warning system that takes notice of aspects of culture long before everyone else. In fact, in this way, the arts help pave the way for the larger body’s understanding. They help us see the world with new eyes and in seeing differently help us change who we are as a culture.
While the subject of art enabling new perspectives will no doubt be taken up more generally in later columns, this time out I’d like to limit this conversation just to how it helps us look differently at socio-political issues.
This has long been the case from Goya’s Third of May to Picasso’s Guernica to a long stable of political cartoonists. The current exhibition at Meadow Brook, “Imaging a Shattered Earth” offers a combination of straight reportage and intense beauty so as to frame environmental degradation in such a way such that the viewer can’t help but look upon it and be moved.
These are to be sure stunning photographs. While they are rich in informed commentary about the environment, there is no mistaking that these are pieces of art. And as such become much more accessible to a larger audience than a manifesto might be. But these have all the content of such manifestos and perhaps possess an even larger impact, as people can look through the artists’ eyes or lens and reach a conclusion that they can claim as their own.
Certainly this won’t change the environmental debate overnight, but it’s a strong step towards changing our vision as a people. Can we predict how long this will take to radiate outward and being accepted by more people? Probably not. We can only hope that the rest of the world catches on to this perspective before it’s too late. – Nick Sousanis
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