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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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