Fine Arts Column: Why Art?


voight-cropped-200-pixelsIf you are any sort of believer in the one true God, it’s incredibly obvious that God is an artist. He’s also a scientist, historian, mathematician, engineer, lawyer, nurse, linguist—and the list goes on. And as we are his beloved creation he instills in each of us many gifts of himself. We are each called to live out a certain part of the master in whose image we are made. We all know this, right?

Why, then, do so many question the artist? Why is there sometimes this almost “disapproval” of our partaking in the pursuit of beauty? While I can’t understand the mind that asks these questions, as we are all so uniquely different, I can at least open up my artist’s brain to you who ask. It’s colorful, confusing, and crazy.

Why Art?

Though I am a drama major, I took immense pleasure in my General Psychology course my sophomore year. I swear, studying my notes felt like reading a good book! The mind is fascinating, complex and weird! (I relate to that description on a personal level…yes that was supposed to be funny.)

It was in this class that I began to understand why I’m an artist—why anyone is an artist. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s literally who we are! Our minds do not care for a world of rigid structure and rules, not because we want to be disrespectful, but because of our need to create and explore.

The heart and mind of an artist long for truth, and we long to be heard in a unique way. We strive to “hold the mirror up to nature,” as Shakespeare says, or even a strong magnifying glass for that matter. It’s not enough simply to attempt to tell a story or speak truth by means of our mouths alone.

Speaking for myself, I have had an embarrassing amount of conversations that were full of large arm movements, passionate vocals and odd sounds of frustration (expressions of the dancer in me). They all end with this phrase, “You know what I mean?! I guess I just can’t explain it right.” Honestly, even as I write this article I am having difficulties. As vast as language is, it still seems inadequate. So what do we do? We speak through our art.

For some it’s the art of their hands on some form of canvas: sculptures, paintings, photography, even graphic computer arts. Others prefer to use the language we are given and increase its capabilities in poetry, novels, and songs. Lastly, there are the performance artists. The singers, musicians, dancers, and actors. All of these fields have one common purpose: the unique expression of self, stories, and truths.

Artists look at the world in a metaphysical way. Some call us “fantasizers,” “dreamers,” or just simply “not down-to-earth.” Well, they’re absolutely right! And we’re not ashamed of that at all. Our passion and creativity derives from this urge to see the world, the universe, all of creation itself in its full glory. In short, we strive to discover God. There is no limit on imagination and that greatly excites us!

As the wonderful playwright Oscar Wilde said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you get.” And do I even need to go into Pope St. John Paul II and his “Letter to Artists”? I think you all get it. We artists feel immensely privileged to have been granted this gift from God, just as you should feel honored in whatever gifts he has bestowed upon you.

I have no clue as to whether this clears up any confusion some may have about us, but I do have something else to tell you: true artists love every field of study outside the arts.

Scientists: you constantly explore and study the wonders of every facet of creation. You discover the how and why of their inner workings. Artists need you.

Historians: you study how humanity in every corner of the world has evolved and moved from culture to culture. That’s something we artists must know so as to have true-to-life works.

Mathematicians and engineers: without you, how on earth would we actors build our sets? You create an environment that can help keep us grounded just enough. We artists need you. Yet you also need us to remind you of the importance of your imagination in your work.

So, why art? For the pursuit of truth in a way that is unique and beyond words. For the pursuit and love of God, who is the ultimate artist.