Art Makes You Smart. The dictionary defines art as works produced by human creative skill and imagination. Nature does not make art, it inspires art. And although there is no shortage of inspiration, the bluebird of paradise will frustrate any attempt to surpass the hand of nature. Nevertheless, we keep trying, driven by an impulse that is in fact, art itself. Imagination is nature’s masterpiece.
Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein.
To think is to create, but free thought is a dangerous thing. Too many questions will get you kicked out of the group and if you value your dental plan you will put your creative impulses in the vault and throw away the key. If on the other hand, you cannot resist exploring the deep recesses of your mind you may need to befriend talented dental students down at the clinic because you’ll be left on your own.
The capacity to discern truth and beauty sets one apart from the group and the Church knew that when they took John 1,1-14 as their mandate to enforce illiteracy on the public. To paraphrase the scriptural passage, “In the beginning was the word and the word was God”. The interpretation was that God is all one needs to know. Toss your books, recite your Hail Mary’s and your reward will be in heaven.
Reading the Bible was punishable by death. The faithful prayed before grim and forbidding icons that were instruments of propaganda and not art for art’s sake. Any deviation from their strict formula and uniformity could land the painter in jail or on a bon fire in the public square where heretics and books were burned along with graven images by iconoclast who associated art with idolatry.
It would not be too much of a stretch to say “All art is religious”. Even the effigies in the African galleries that were made to erode naturally, contained an ephemeral immanence aimed at a specific purpose. They, like the Byzantine icons, were not created as art per se, but even as we look at them in their out-of-context setting, they continue to inspire because they were created to express abstract ideas
Art decrypts the abstract. Abstract Expressionism is an abstruseness antithetical to clarity: an oxymoron. It’s a hermetic concept much like masturbation that is wholly dependent on the voyeur (also in a state of isolation) to make something of it. There are no parameters and it’s interpretation is wide open. Also, the self-gratifying aspect is appealing to those that see art as a facile and spontaneous act anyone can do alla prima. O Clyfford B Still.
Long before Socrates said it, people believed that truth is beauty. Thus, aesthetic pursuits require the same attention to truth as scientific observation. Nowhere is that more apparent than in a comparative visit to New York’s two great museums to science and art. The experience at New York’s Natural History Museum confirms life is a happy accident. And at the Metropolitan Museum of Art it says make the most of it. Truth is beauty.
I can find no record of it, but Gene Wilder once told a story on TV about taking Richard Pryor to MOMA for the very first time. When they got to Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night he was stunned by Pryor’s immediate grasp of the painting and listened intently to his insights that revealed things Wilder had not seen after years of being on intimate terms with the masterpiece. Art makes you smart.