The Power of Art

starry-night-by-van-gogh1We left Seattle in torrents of rain and darkness and stepped into sunny Laguna Beach for a few days this week. Our good friends opened their arms and opened their door, and throughout our stay I saw their home as an art gallery—for they live with it every day, all this local, live, and original art.

In a word, the impression it made was life-changing, a feast for the eyes.

Walk into town in Laguna and everything is about the arts, from what you hang on your walls to what you drape on your body. Walk Heisler Park overlooking the ocean and the smell of oil paints is intoxicating. From sun up to sun down for three glorious days in Laguna Beach, I submerged myself in the visual arts. I saw paintings in the landscape, the sky, and the water.

My understanding is that the town of Laguna Beach was practically founded by artists who selected it as the perfect spot along the Southern California coastline in which to set up their easels. Where the hills meet the sea and the sea circles in with southern facing coves, and a Mediterranean climate blankets all.

I am trying to carry that mind set home with me. I am talking about Art. What others find a luxury or frivolous, I find essential. I think it may be for us all, though many don’t know it. And that, in fact, may be what is wrong with this country.

For I know this: if everyone were involved in the arts, either in a creating or enjoying capacity, the world would be a better place.

We can do this. Think of the miles of corridors and acres of waiting rooms in all our institutions and offices, and what is on the walls but framed printed reproductions. Over and over again, the same prints. I think we’ve gone numb to art in this country.

Have we forgotten that there are artists out there? Think of the number of art students alone. All the original art being made with hardly any hope of selling. Have we forgotten the power of art and how it can save us? American abstract painter Darby Bannard said it well, “The power of art is not in communication but effect; what it does, not what it relates.”

Just as a writer sees and hears with words, one who takes up photography starts to see photographically. Sculpt, and become extraordinarily sensitive to texture and form. Spend an afternoon in art galleries, and walk back out into a world that is suddenly as rich an oil painting. On and on, art saves us from our worst selves by putting life on a higher plain.


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5 responses to “The Power of Art

  1. As reluctant as I am to suggest a different opinion than with those who have bought my art and say they like it, I don’t think US Americans are numb to art – evident in your experience and sharing it; US Americans are numb to other things and they rush to art. Art is essential, but US Americans put their money into what they, by massive numbers, “feel” (sensoria) and “believe” (political, spiritual) and not what they think. Education is where the thinking is supposed to develop and, Yes, it would be very good for the US if as much money were pouring into STEAM education programs as is being wasted in feeling, politics and belief systems. Maybe I’m not disagreeing at all with what I read into your words – so confusing to me when I think about what is has gone wrong in education in the USA. (sad face)

  2. to a large extent, bill, i think we in seattle live in a “bubble” like folks in laguna. (in my case, i’m buried in books). and you as an artist with an art gallery are only going to see art lovers coming in the door. what i was addressing, broadly, are all the hotels and motels, office buildings and restaurants that would service the public better by showcasing local art.
    p.s. i do love your art! it’s in my living room.

  3. Alexander Finn

    A fine splash of color, cousin. I cannot over analyze this one, you’ve dabbed it well in words that flow smoothly off the tongue. It is timely. I think that in troubled times such as ours, there is a resurgence of artistic outburst. I hope it is so.

    How important art must be in our lives. Notso many years ago, I was told that some prominent med schools were recommending alternative undergraduate majors to students wishing to become a physician. Not only were their biology and chemistry departments impacted, research showed that, here it comes, Art majors made very good doctors, GP’s in particular. The non-scientific part of the research suggested that Art majors had better social skills and took a more wholistic view of their patients.

    My wife and I are currently preparing our annual submissions of Halloween Art for our visiting friends and family. Nothing usual here, very creative and very fun, nothing to found an artistic zip code however.

    Notso artistically yours,

    Al Finn

  4. Elizabeth Yourgrau

    Agree that art greatly enhances our lives and we need to celebrate and support our artists. Would Hitler’s reign of terror been vastly altered if ONLY he’d been accepted at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna in 1907 and 1908? Who knows, but let’s not make that mistake again!

    • Speaking of the Third Reich, two things I remember from my reading of that era, one was that they gave grants to many artists to produce films and other material for propaganda. Now, when I see artists given grants, I never see that as a Great Thing. I always wonder. The second thing was a famous quote, I think by Goering, “Give them their expression, but not their rights,” referring to the masses. As for Hitler, I have met people in the arts, I am sad to say, of whom I thought I was glad they did not go into politics or the military – so creative and charismatic, it’s scary to think, as you say, when such an one grows into power when the times are right. True, I wish H had been accepted into the art world and left to make scary pictures the rest of his life instead of what he was able to do in politics. Yet, his pleasant little paintings showed nothing of what he was capable of doing, did they?

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