“Leland Ryken defines art’s purpose thus: ‘the function of the arts is to heighten our awareness and perception of life by making us vicariously live it… There can be no doubt that the arts are one of the chief means by which the human race grapples with and interprets reality.‘ One way it helps us cope with life, says Ryken, is by allowing us to encounter our own problems at a safe distance, another is simply by temporarily removing us from it and then sending us back to it with renewed understanding and zest.”
Art and Soul pg 121
I’ve been wrestling with the concept of the purpose of art and why it matters so much to me recently and to the human experience throughout history. I think mostly because it’s a crucial tool in helping us approach our lives in some kind of outside and round about way, or at least this can be said about the audience.
But what about the artist? I feel that the issues that are drawn out through pieces of art are mirrors and reflections of the artist. The artist doesn’t get to experience the art at a safe distance. The art is born out of himself/herself in the very essence and substance of his/her life. I am almost pulled back to my experience in watching Black Swan. This movie has held a kind of strange presence over me recently as I try to work on creating and writing and performing a piece of my own for my Drama in Ministry Class. This piece of art work has very much arrested much of my internal occupations and made me subservient to the work needed to be done for it’s performance. I don’t get to experience this art from a distance, I have to live it.
I love it, and yet I hate it at the same time. It’s a burden and a calling for me at this moment, and though it tears me right through, I cannot not give myself to it’s creation. It’s a monster that haunts me in my dark places and an angel that illumines and instills my heart with hope.
There is no safe distance for the artist. But the act of creating art, for me, is an act of love and servanthood to my community. I believe that it’s important to recognize that what I do is done in the Holy Spirit for His Glory that my work gives room for His work to actually take over and to make me somewhat useful.