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Art is important

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While art is bought by the well-to-do it is in a sense consumed by everyone rich or poor. Thus, when Romeo Bisdak puts a picture of the Beatles on his bedroom wall, he might not know that the picture comes from the animated movie production “Yellow Submarine.” The art work took many dollars to make. The original drawings which might have been made by Peter Max would be very valuable by now. It might be part of some unknown millionaire’s collection of Beatlemania.

The same may be said for most iconic art, The Last Supper, Mona Lisa, Warhol’s Marilyn, etc. They become the embellishment of people’s homes everywhere. And it is worthwhile to ask why we decorate our lives this way? Indeed, where regular art may not at all be possible for some reason or another people will make do with what they can make themselves.

As in the case of a young boy with a beat up little wooden pushcart. He pushes it on the streets loading it with all sorts of recyclable garbage. He has decorated it with multicolored telephone wire. He ties them in a line on the wooden bar over the single front wheel. They fly up skywards like slivers of greens, blues, reds and yellows rocking as the pushcart moves. The beauty of it may be missed by most people and yet the good artist might easily see what a fine art work it is. And it is art which exists in pure beautiful forms. The kind of art people say they do not understand because it is “modern.” They are just line and color existing in pure abstract form. And the fact it has been made by a young boy clearly without much art training might tell us how universal the drive is towards art. It should bother us when we claim we do not know anything about art.

But ask the young boy and he might not have any idea at all that what he is making is art. For him it is only play. Something he did for no purpose other than from an inner drive he cannot fully understand. The well-experienced artist listening to this might quickly reply: Ah, but that is exactly how good art is made.

And that perhaps is the magic of art. It feeds no one directly. You cannot eat it and yet we feed on it all the time. It is an item of luxury. And yet people who may not have enough to eat will decorate their lives with it anyway. Albeit not with an expensive original by some famous artist. But what is the difference between the original and the picture of it from a magazine or newspaper? That difference would only be an illusory construct. Not the soul of the art itself. Not its most pragmatic function.

Clearly, there is something inside us which moves us towards beauty. What is beautiful is usually good for us and it is good for us also in the moral sense. Thus, death is usually quite ugly. And it is because it is ugly that we do not like to kill. And we would have to think very carefully about it before we do kill. We do this not because the ugliness of death is something which derives from thinking. When we see someone die in the streets or over television we are automatically repulsed. We do not ask how the death came about before we are repulsed. We react to it immediately. Something inside us clicks and we look instantaneously away without thinking.

The modern philosophers say it is our “faculty of taste” reacting immediately to the aesthetic ugliness of the sight of death. As it would react just as immediately to something beautiful instead of ugly; such as the sight of love, the act of charity and good will. These are things that become the stuff of music, photographs, the painting, and sculpture. We recreate the sight and feel of them in theaters, movies, anywhere you can put art, because we cannot have enough of their reality. And we will actually search for the beautiful the very same way we search for our own particular God if not our own personal persuasion.

This search for the aesthetic must have developed from millions of years of human existence accompanying us as we evolved from proto-mammals to what we are now. It must help in the survival of the human species in the most profound ways. And the beauty of it is we do not even need to understand how and why before we appreciate it. Sometimes, we appreciate art without even realizing it. Such as when we walk into a room and feel good without even knowing why.

Art is everywhere. And we have many good artists in our cities. We can never do enough to let them know how important they are. They remind us, that the only way we can know our city has become better is when we see it has also become more beautiful.


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