Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Life Without Art?

Tapestry in progress

Rack of greenware drying VERY slowly

Four bases of a sculpture that is in progress

I'm not huge Sci-fi fan by any stretch, nor am I a fan of action-packed cinema with gun-wielding outcasts and zooming car chases, but I did see such a movie a few years back that has had a long and lasting impression on me.

Equilibrium is a futuristic movie where a post third-world-war society has deemed that human emotions are the root cause of conflict and members of society are mandated to take an emotion-quelling drug. In the movie, art is viewed as dangerous and as a result is banned in all forms: poetry, music, painting, etc. The protagonist is a cleric and government official who misses his daily injection and begins to experience emotion and question his own morality. He eventually partners with the underground to overthrow his own government.

(see Trailer for this movie)

What struck me most about this movie was the cold feeling of a society without art. People all looked the same, acted the same, hum drum, emotionless, monotone. Imagination and color, joy, and individuality were completely stripped.

Is this how life would look without art?

I start to go through the things in my mind that are influenced by artists. The list is long. Imagine if you will, everything we experience in our daily routines that had the touch of a creative person, and then take those things away from existence.

- The clock, lamp, small table beside my bed that holds the alarm clock, and my favorite chair (furniture designer)
-The clothes we wear, wedding dress, work uniform (fashion designer)
-The house we live in, buildings we work in, skyscrapers in cities (architects)
- Music (musicians, singers, sound engineers, instrument designers)
- The automobile that gets me to work (automotive designer)
-Television, cinema, live theater (performing artists (actresses/actors), screenwriters, camera technicians, directors, set designers, commercial writers)
- Food (packaging designer)
-Billboards, calendars, posters, wedding photos, advertisement (photographers)
-Museums, galleries (artists of all types)
-Toys (designers)
-Computer games (artists, musicians)
-Restaurants (culinary arts)
-Dance shows, ballet, the macarena, music videos etc. (choreographers, dancers, musicians)

The list goes on and on. I look all around me and it is near impossible to identify anything that is not influenced by an artist or creative person of some sort. Even nature, with her own beauty and design is often landscaped by a visionary.

Imagine, if you will, the above list of items removed from your life, and then you might have an idea of what life would look and feel like without the influence of artists.

I feel fortunate to be able to live in a world where color and imagination are part of our everyday existence. I love that I can visit a museum and see works of great artists who lived before my time, or that I can turn on the radio and listen to works by musicians that inspire me to create my own works in fiber and clay. I love that I can walk into a store and feel the texture of different fabrics and pick out clothing ensembles that fit my personality. I love that I can attend live theater and watch a story unfold with incredible choreography, moving music, and a fantastic light show.

And most importantly, I love that I have the freedom to be an artist.

I am grateful that everyday of my existence is somehow influenced by the arts and creativity, whether I am reading my husband's poetry, teaching, creating my own work, or viewing/listening to the work of another artist. I am grateful that I am surrounded by people who appreciate the arts, who understand their importance in our lives, and who have consistently and enthusiastically supported the endeavors of myself and my husband as we live lives as artists.

Art brings a deeper meaning and purpose to all of our lives. It helps us to design our own individuality with the choices that we make in the music we listen to, the paintings we hang on our walls, the furniture we pick for our home, the clothes we wear to various functions, and the way we plate our edibles when hosting guests for dinner.

We are each like a palette with several colors of paint waiting to be created into our own unique artwork based on how much we use of each color, the type of brush stroke, and where it is applied on the canvas.

We all begin with the same ingredients, but each possess a different way of expressing and that is what makes us interesting, passionate, unique individuals creating our own life masterpiece.

Praise to ART!


Owl Who Laughs said...

This is a passionate and wise message that reveals the meaning in life. You’ve gone down into the essence of things, showing that art is everywhere, and yet that art is vulnerable to being destroyed and also ignored. This post is beautiful. It is the kind of awareness everyone ought to learn. You show us that healing is possible, if we dare to grasp how amazing and miraculous the world is.


Below is a comment that was emailed to me. Thanks, Ruta, for this excellent and insightful comment (and for permission to publish it).

The first time I visited Latvia in 1974 felt exactly as you have described in your blog of the movie. No color, only "official" art, so creativity was squelched. Each small part of Latvia has developed a "national costume" over the last thousand years - with each person adding individual touches. Those had become like uniforms, worn during official celebrations. People would not look you in the eye, and actually feared talking to us, because someone would invariably interrogate them later on what we talked about. But even in a society where individualism, curiosity and creativity are discouraged, they keep popping up. It is in our makeup, our genes. By the time we visited in 1990, the year before the fall of the Soviet Union, you could feel it in the air. Latvia's road to freedom was called the singing revolution. One of the traditions the soviets tried to whitewash was the song and dance festival every four years, but the songs became a shorthand for patriotism. Now, in the Museum of Occupation in Riga, they display works of art made by individuals deported to Siberia, using whatever they could find to work with. No, I don't think you can extinguish art. It seems as if it grows strongest in places where it is forbidden!


Kim Hambric said...

Wonderful post, Shanna. I do get tired of hearing others discussing the importance (or, rather, the nonimportance of art). Schools? Cut it out. What a waste of time.

We are all affected by art each and every minute -- yes, in some situations for than others. Compare a night at the ballet to an evening in front of the television watching American Idol or Brady Bunch reruns.

I'm sure there are a few folks out there who would be just dandy wearing only overalls and eating unattractively packaged Big Macs. But these are the minority and we've got to realize that and keep pushing for beauty in this world.

Thanks for sharing the comment of Ruta's. That last line will haunt me forever. I'm sure there are a few people in this world who are devoid of any artistic instinct. And there are others who are afraid of it and wish to suppress it. We cannot allow these people to force their ideals onto the rest of us.

Rhonda Bobinski Beckman said...