Why do we create art?

Thursday, January 26, 2017
I don't know where the inclination to create art comes from, but writers, painters, musicians, and sculptors share a desire to put their view of the world into their work. I believe we all have similar goals--to promote self expression, and reflect on culture and society. Art can begin a difficult discussion, bring people together, cultivate passion and conflict, or offer a healing respite for a damaged soul. It reminds us we are not alone.

One of my favorite memories comes from a contemporary gallery in Houston. My mother had accompanied me on a business trip that included a city tour with a stop at the gallery. The canvases were huge sheets of brown craft paper that hung vertically from the wall and flowed onto the floor. Each one featured a series of six-inch swirls of numeric dates like these: 9-10-96, 8-19-67, 4-11-72.

We spent a lot of time trying to decipher the codes and significance behind them. We looked for patterns and offered theories. It was the first time I remember "seeing" her as an individual because of our differing interpretations. When I teach the concept of perception in my communications classes, I share the memory as an example that no two people see the world in the same way, but it doesn't limit our ability to connect.

Melissa Bauer practices plein air painting (the act of painting outside). I asked her about her goals, and she referred me to the artist's bio on her website, which explains her desire to "make a connection to the natural world that becomes a physical object." When I asked her why she does it, she said it lives inside her and if she didn't let it out, she would explode.

I understood. To me, writing is like a compulsion to fling a life preserver over the side of a boat in the dark, on the off chance that someone just might need one, and we connect. Why do you create art?


Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--I love your lifeboat simile. I think you could write a whole piece about writing is like being on a cruise ship. Although I've never been on a cruise, I saw lots of episodes of "The Love Boat" when I was a kid...

I write to make the connection with others. To make them laugh. To make them tear up. To share my world/my experiences with them.

Thanks for--as always--a thought-provoking post.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I agree with Sioux--a thought provoking post! I'm actually a painter and graphic artist who took up writing as a new art form. I paint to tell a story and express a viewpoint, to make people think, or simply to appreciate all things beautiful and terrifying; but mostly, I paint for the process of doing. I like to be in my studio mixing oils, listening to music, and making something appear from nothing. It gives me a deep satisfaction that I can't really get elsewhere. Being involved in an art show with other artists is also immensely satisfying in a different way. As weird as it sounds, I guess it makes me appreciate myself...which doesn't come naturally.

Mary Horner said...

Thanks for your comments Sioux and Angela! There were so many other things I wanted to say about this, but I think it comes down to connecting with other people, the world at large or just a small piece of something special. I feel that way when I look at art or read something beautiful, and my desire to create something that makes someone else feel connected may be selfish, but I can't help myself!

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