Concept board frames artist Sydney has a large market here in our place. Recently, my friend and fellow Emergence Practitioner, Austin, asked me two very thought provoking questions: “What makes something art?”, and “What makes someone an artist?” My first thoughts? Holy cow! These are no small questions he’s asking here. Especially since he is one of the fastest rising graphics artists in New York City.
So what is
“art,” and what is an “artist?” My first thoughts. “Art” is something
which registers in the mind of the beholder as being exemplary of
beauty, truth, and reality. Something which communicates some particular
quality, or qualities, of “reality,” in the truest sense of the word
By this definition, Monet’s impressions and Pollack’s
dribblings both easily qualify, even though neither attempts to offer
photo graphic realities. As do Twain’s description of Huck’s father in
an alcoholic blackout, and Hemingway’s metaphor of the hill in war torn
Spain shaped like a young girl’s breast.
Okay. Something which
embodies a quality or qualities of reality. Yes. This, in part, defines
art. Yet clearly, this definition is not enough. The psychologist’s
diagnostic manual, the DSM4R, describes alcoholic blackouts pretty well.
Yet it’s not art. Not even close. And web porn often describes young
girl’s breasts, often in more graphic detail than anyone would ever wish
for. Yet clearly, this does not qualify as art either.
thoughts lead me back to my three defining qualities, and specifically
to the word, “beauty.” Real art captures some aspect of beauty, even
when this aspect evokes horror. The photo of the Vietnamese man kneeling
in the road being shot in the head. The May 6, 1937 news film, wherein a
German dirigible explodes into flame and burns in 34 seconds while the
news reporter cries, “Oh, the humanity!”
Horrific? Yes. Reality?
Yes. Art? Almost more than we can bear to witness. Yet here, within a
single photo, and a few brief moments of film, we are forced, almost
brutally, to face life itself. Our world. Our life. Our painfully
So yes. That something portrays a quality or
qualities of reality is not enough to make it art. These qualities of
reality must convey, in some way, the beauty in life. Even when this
beauty shocks and saddens the heart.
With this in mind, then
perhaps, we might add to our definition that art reaches into the heart
and soul of the beholder. Which leads me to my next thought, that “art”
is something which embodies living qualities within a non organic form.
In other words, “art” creates in the beholder a literal bridge between
Emergence Personality Theory’s, Layers 9 and 10. In doing so, art
connects us, as human beings, to each other. It also connects us to the
world in which we humans live. As well as connecting our world to us.
example, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni’s David connects
marble (Layer 10) to human beings (Layer 9), both within the sculpture,
stone to man, and outside the sculpture, stone to witness. Thus,
although we all are, as the Quantum physicists teach us, literally
connected in the details, perhaps for us to feel this connection
consciously, we need art as a bridge.
Finally I would add that
true “art” is timeless in the deepest physical and spiritual senses of
this word. Thus, to put this into one of Emergence Personality Theory’s,
Formulas for Human Consciousness (M=IT), while the value of the M and I
variables (meaning and information) in art may vary widely, the value
of the T variable (time) would have to be at or close to a 10.
when the Tajikistani thirteenth century mystical poet, Rumi, writes,
“the eye goes blind when it only wants to see why,” he manages to
capture the essence of blamelessness and the core belief of Emergence
all within eleven words. Moreover, he did this eight hundred years ago,
and his words ring just as true today. Timelessness to be sure.
So now. Let me try to put what I’ve said together. “Art” is:
* Something which registers in the mind of the beholder as being exemplary of beauty, truth, and reality.
* Something which captures some aspect of beauty, even when this aspect evokes horror.
Something which literally creates a bridge within us between the world
in which we live and ourselves as humans; a Layer 10 to Layer 9
* Something which does all this timelessly, as in the value of T in M=I(T) is at or approaching 10.
this said, I openly admit, these words, as meaningful as they may be to
some, still fall dreadfully short of defining “art” itself. Why?
Because “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” In other
words, only “art” can describe “art.” Anything less is mere Layer 2,
“from-a-distance,” words about art, and not art itself. This said, then
perhaps I should add that “art” is:
* Something which cannot be put into words. It must be visible to be art. At least, in the mind of the beholder.
and one more thing. The other question. “What is an artist?” My answer?
A human being who builds bridges between us and our world. Beautiful
bridges. Timeless bridges. Real bridges. Beyond words bridges.
And for anyone not now recognizing what this means, it means that artists and shamans are brothers and sisters at heart. You see, shamans are also builders of bridges. In their case, of course, rather than focusing on bridging us to each other’s beauty, shamans build these bridges as the means to heal our relationships; between people and themselves, between people and people, between people and their world, and between people and God. Which means they focus on a special kind of beauty.
Steven Paglierani is a writer, teacher, personality theorist, and therapist, whose work on human consciousness is read weekly by thousands all over the world. He is the author of Emergence Personality Theory, whose focus is to restore and deepen peoples’ love of learning. His hope is that in some way his work will make the world better for children.
He can be read or reached at his site, http://theEmergenceSite.com
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