What is the purpose of art? What does it mean to be creative?
I’ve come back to this topic over and over in various ways. This week, when political divides are deeper that I can remember them ever being in my adult life, I realized something about being an artist.
There are two broad ways to approach creativity:
- With the desire to make something both meaningful and pleasing, that has an aspect of beauty in an eternal sense. Its rightness in itself can even be its meaning.
- Needing somehow to make something disturbing, that is going to clash with that eternal rightness of what is beautiful. The message being, all is not right. I am not pleased with or grateful for the status quo, and I don’t want anyone else to be, either.
When I was a young New Yorker I remember going to performances and locales with the very intent to be shocked by the boldness of the rebellion against common sensibility. And the more often my conscience was offended, the harder it became to shake me up. This — I think, nonsensically — passed for the urbane idea of what constitutes “art.”
Today, a bourgeois girl who spent my twenties in New York and my thirties in La La Land, I come full circle back to the suburbs to find that the need to be shocking and offensive has all but left me. Your message can wake people up without horrifying them, by touching them in a positive way.
It comes down to kindness, gentleness, love and self-control. Most grown-ups have developed a taste for serenity and wisdom and appreciate the timeless rightness of true beauty that comes through true artists, not malcontents, as a gift from something eternally Good.
Think of what you are channeling with your art.