Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Art: a metaphor for being human


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!

bath Sex in the USA

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


Lorie McCown said...

I do find my self pulling away from media in general. It can really make it's way into our heads and mess with us, I believe. I feel the same way when walking into someone's house. If there is no art (or maybe worse, art that matches the furniture!) and no books, I'm skeptical from the start.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Eliazbeth for your honesty about TV and the way truth is distorted and misinterpreted by what is shown on the screen. I must admit is discouraging as an artist to realize that art has no value, because it is what directs my life. What are people missing out on by not having access to the beauty that art can provide?
I look forward to your blog and your honesty. It is a rare commodity in today's society. You have one very loyal follower out in Blogland.
Hope you have a good day! Sandi

kay said...

Thank you for your thoughts about the Slow Arts and the value of process, especially in this age of instant gratification. It is heartbreaking to see art disappear from children's lives.

Suzanne DeCuir said...

What is somewhat encouraging if there is not much art on the wall is if the children's art has been framed and put on the walls. At least they are having their work acknowledged and validated. I'm a painter, not a quilter, but my quilter sister put me onto your blog - glad I found it.

Honoré said...

I read your post and it resonated deeply with me, particularly the process. I shall return to this frequently as I contemplate and engage in my own art- making journey.
Thank you. To be continued!


KathyB said...

You are so right! It's sad that when I retired from teaching art/music at the elementary school, they decided to put a PE teacher in my place. I know they need both, but why must we quibble about which one to have? These children are our future. I am still sad for what they are missing. They all LOVED art & music!

Since my retirement, I've been working now on my second career (using very small bits of fabric). Please stop by and see fiberart by KathyBourgeois at