“Just Us Chickens Trying to Make Sense of it…”
Junot Diaz (author: Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which if you haven't read you must!!)made some very interesting remarks recently at the university about the importance of art. Amongst things like finding solutions to environmental problems, alternative energy sources, health care reform, libraries, good education etc etc art is now considered "unnecessary" by so many of our (so-called) representatives, whereas, of course, waging war and making vast profits for the top few is totally necessary. But I digress!!
Diaz was discussing the relationship between art and capitalism. Many school districts have cut all art funding and the nation's children are growing up without any idea of what art is at all. Art education has been cut "to save money" (money that has been spent on overly luxurious housing, on war, on concrete!, on making sure that the people at the top have vast profits) but such cuts also drastically reduce what is good and rich in human experience.
Diaz said "Art is a metaphor for all that we call human". Whatever your background, you have to deal with life's many problems, pleasures, challenges and triumphs. Diaz feels that art is a way for us to encounter life through metaphor: whether painting, sculpture, dance, or writing or any medium. We learn so much about beauty, culture, balance and expression through seeing art and making art. Art shows us the problems and the answers. If you have the opportunity to learn how to make art, you also learn so many cognitive and emotional skills. How to plan, how to think through, how to express feelings in productive ways, how to dream, how to be creative, how to be patient (yes especially with quilting and the other Slow arts).
Art is not a quick thing; art making, and the enjoyment of the art that others have made, is a wonderfully slow contemplative process. This allows time to ponder, to dream and to plan. It allows us both to be in the moment and to look ahead and consider where we want to go and discover how we will get there. Without art people look for quick solutions, make impulsive decisions, want everything NOW. As quiltmakers we learn to enjoy the process, we realise that the quilt that is made in one hour yields nothing like the satisfaction, pride and beauty of the one that takes weeks or months.
I am always saddened when I go into someone's house and there is no art on the walls. It’s understandable though, for if one hasn’t learned how to enjoy and make art and gain all the many benefits, why would anyone ever think that a home needed art? Advertising constantly tells us that tv, cell phones and other consumer items are vital to life! Television with its constant exhortations to consume and buy and make fun of other people and act violently is always in pride of place. And if we don't like one way of killing or eating or (which is mainly what the people on tv seem to do - in the shows they kill and mock, in the ads they eat and have sex in bathtubs!), then we have 900 other channels to find other ways of doing those activities - except for sex which always seems to be in the bathtub (here in the US at least, may be different in other countries!) - actually two tubs one for each participant - although I must admit the tubs are usually overlooking a very nice view!
Wouldn't it be better to have a brilliant painting or amazing art quilt on the wall than a talking head full of terrifying hot air based not on fact but biased opinion? We all need art - Maslow should have had it at the bottom of the pyramid not near the top! Making art shows us how to live – especially the textile arts I think.
Well…and what d’you think?? all comments most gratefully welcome! And, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth