Continuing with my last post, ART IS A MIRROR, which ended with:
“My next post coming up soon: Why art in a vacuum isn’t what art is for.”
First, no, not THAT kind of vacuum. Second, OMG even our Euphy is dirty!!
I’m a long-time advocate for artists/creatives of all kinds to share their creative work with the world.
I’ve written about the fears that hold us back from doing that, from the fear of being copied to the worry that it isn’t “good enough” for public consumption.
Sharing our art is like tossing a pebble into a lake. We can’t tell where all the ripples go, but they are certainly going somewhere! (You may get tired of hearing it, I get it. But I will never stop saying it.)
I cannot count the number of times people have reached out to me, with comments, or privately, by email, that something I’ve shared (my writing, my posts on social media, my artwork) has given them the insight, the encouragement, the courage to keep doing the work of their heart.
And when I’m feeling down or less-than, someone crosses my path with just the right message: My words matter, to someone, somewhere, in the world.
If only one person benefits, that’s good enough for me.
But just in case you can’t imagine that YOU matter that much, here are some thoughts.
First, I’ve shared how sitting in my first introductory art history class in a large, dark auditorium (like a cave), surrounded by others who might be on the same path (in my community), seeing those huge and powerful images of the Lascaux Cave (so powerful!) made me feel, for a few precious moments, like I was actually in the Cave. It changed my life, though it took years to understand that, and even more to gain the courage to pursue that path.
I’ve encouraged you find your own creation story, and share the power of finding the WHY behind your work.
I don’t have the credentials, degrees, official recognition, etc. that would “prove” you should believe me. Just my own life experience.
If you don’t believe ME, here’s someone with credentials. An article by Carrie Dedon, Modern and Contemporary Art Curatorial Assistant at the Seattle Art Museum, from June 2016.
“Object of the Week: Untitled” is about the Seattle Art Museum’s 2016 exhibition called “Light and Space”, and much credit is given to artist Larry Bell for his powerful quote:
In my opinion all artwork is stored energy. The art releases its power whenever a viewer becomes a dreamer.
That’s the quote I found through author/artist Austin Kleon’s blog post today. It’s #36 if you don’t have time to read them all.
But IMHO, Dedon’s insight wraps up a whole universe of reasons why sharing our art is so important:
For many of the Light and Space artists, an artwork only reached its full potential when it was engaged in this relationship with a viewer—an object in an empty room without anyone to look at it is, in essence, not doing its job.
Art without an audience, even an audience of one, is not doing its job….
It kind of reminds me about Schrödinger’s cat, or that proverbial tree falling in the forest. It may/may not exist, may/may not make a sound, without eyes to see it or ears to hear it.
The same with art.
Art cannot fufill its true purpose in life if other people can’t experience it.
We all have a unique story, one that only we can tell.
We have a purpose, our creativity, that can take many forms and expressions. Not just making “art”, not just in all our current definitions of “art” (2d and 3d work, music, poetry, drama, stories, dance, song, etc.) but in anything and everything we pursue that a) makes us a better person, and when we share it with the world, makes the world a better place.
When we share it, it can lift the heart of others. It helps them understand our story. It encourages others to share their story, too.
Teaching. Healing. Nourishing. Caretaking. Gardening. Restoring/repairing/mending. Building. Hospice. Creating community, sanctuary, peace, connection, understanding, tolerance, love. And study/research that strives for the same.
If I had never found those powerful images of the Lascaux Cave early in my life, I would not be making the art I make today.
If the caves had not been discovered, what a loss that would have been! And even though our very breath and the heat from our bodies have nearly destroyed those images, they appeared at a time in history when they could be photographed, mapped, reproduced, studied. (We visited Lascaux II two weeks after 9/11, and my bucket list now includes a visit to Lascaux IV.)
And the more we learn about those Painters of the Caves ( a wonderful children’s book written by award-winning author Patricia Lauber) the more we learn about ourselves. The assumptions of the years after the Cave’s discovery that have now been proven wrong. The painters weren’t “cave men”, they were (mostly) women and men who were shamans. It wasn’t hunting magic (most cave art images do not reflect the actual animals each community hunted for food), they were communal ceremonies, with sound and movement.
Most importantly, Lauber’s most powerful sentence admits we may never understand the why, the how, the what about these ancient artists of the distant past. She notes the cave paintings are messages that were not addressed to us. It meant something powerful for those people, in their time. But we may never know for sure what that was.
And yet, we feel the power, the mystery, of those paintings thousands and thousands and thousands of years later. Every single person I ever met who actually saw those paintings in that short window of time they were available to us, confirmed that experience. They were in the presence of something deep, mysterious, and powerful, and they did not know why.
When they say see/feel something similar in my work, something that echoes what they experienced, I know I’m doing it right.
In the end, it’s not the sales, the fame, the recognition, the number of likes. All this can be great, I agree. But how will we be remembered when we are gone? And how will even that last?
We are meant to bring our creative work into the world. It changes us. It helps us grow bigger, in our hearts, in our sense of purpose in the world, in our ability to tell our story, and to connect with the stories of others. It helps us inspire and encourage others to value their own creative work.
That’s why we must explore ways to let others see/hear/taste/experience see it, whether through gallery representation, exhibitions, books and magazines, open studios, or through social media, and venues yet to be discovered.
When we empower empower ourselves, we will empower others, too.
I am so grateful for Dedon’s words. Art is not created in, nor can exist in a vacuum. It is created in our human hearts. And when others see the work of our heart, when we share it with the world, art and creativity continue to seed, to grow, to bloom and shine, in them.
I’m grateful for Austin Kleon, (“An artist who draws”), whose blog today listed his top 100 quotes about art for 2021, including #36 by Larry Bell, which led me to Dedon’s blog post.
I’m grateful to those shamans, who created work that was important, powerful, healing, for them. And because it survived, in real time, and now in so many media, images, and now highly-accurate recreations, it is still a source for inspiration, mystery and awe in our modern times.
You can follow in their footsteps by sharing your art, too. As I said in my last article, marketing our art involves sharing. But sharing can simply be that: Letting people see it, online, in our studios, in a gallery, in a book, and spreading the power of our creative hearts.