“I became an artist and thank God I did … because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” -Viola Davis
While I think she may have gotten swept up in the moment when she made this statement (you could make a strong case for other professions celebrating what it means to live a life), she makes a fair point: artists across the spectrum do bring things to life. Sometimes it’s making colors dance, others it’s a humorous little vignette, others just celebrate beauty in all manifestations; and then you get the whoppers: the deep stories, the political commentary, the ones that make us squirm. I believe all are necessary, especially when all seems dark (which is pretty much all the time if you pay attention to world events).
I was thinking about this because my work isn’t deep. It isn’t political. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make you squirm. I make pretty things, things that catch the eye and make it linger for a moment, but there’s no deeper meaning, really. And that can be discouraging, in an age that values the drama over prettiness and light (although apparently La La Land was pretty … I don’t like musicals so I didn’t watch it). It’s the movies that wreck you that are called “great”, Oprah’s Book Club usually spotlighted an incredibly depressing story … and so on and so forth.
But then you have cathedrals.
A cathedral is a massive undertaking. It could easily take decades to complete one, gobs of money, and those who started or envisioned the project would not necessarily see the end of it, but still they were built. They were built for various reasons; you could say they were built to glorify God, and that is true, but there were also political motivations … and then there was the motivation of simply making something beautiful in the midst of the darkness. A cathedral rose above all other buildings, it could be seen from afar, and both the outside and inside were master accomplishments, drawing the eye with every aspect. I think they were on to something … beauty lifts the soul, delights the senses, encourages and inspires us. It reminds you that there is something to hope for, something to strive for, a reason to lift our eyes from the everyday and the muck.
And that is why those of us who make the pretty things, the beautiful things, the things that don’t really touch upon the drama of life, must continue. We serve our purpose, just like those who delve into the darkness also serve their purpose. Combined we remind humanity of their darkest secrets, the painful truths, and also give them a reason to journey onwards, a reason to get up in the mornings.
And I will now ruin what was a lovely thought-stream by confessing I don’t know how to end it. I stayed up far too late watching the Best Movie (Best Picture? I actually don’t pay much attention, I watch because my brothers both enjoy the film industry and I like to have talking points) debacle and then reading what other people thought of it so the brain is not firing as quickly as it usually does and I have had far too many cups of coffee this morning so I’m at that stage of not caffeinated enough but a bit shaky so I really should not have any more but I really really want more bah humbug run-on sentence.
So Art On, my friends. We need all the beauty we can get.