Dear LoMA Family,
Two weeks ago, I went to a symposium at the Onassis Center wherein five artists and writers spoke on the role of the artist in society. Any answer to the question of “what is art” is impossible, yet a discussion on the topic is enriching and interesting. Here are some of the more stimulating ideas I heard that night.
The most common and traditional perception is that art should reflect what is beautiful in the world: a formal ballet, a tranquil landscape painting or a melodious symphony. In this sense, art creates an ideal that we can aspire to and that may offer solace in a difficult world. When I look at a Monet painting or listen to Mozart during the school day it calms me down and sets me right. One speaker described beauty in art as a “sanctuary.”
Awar Nafasi, a teacher and author from Iran, said art can do more than this when it “allows one to transcend one’s own reality.” Nafasi used to teach English literature in Tehran during the dictatorship. When these students would secretly and illegally read about 18th Century New Yorkers in Henry James novels or about Huck helping Tom escape slavery in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, they would escape their boundaries of oppression as they imagined living lives far different from their own. Whenever you are reading Shakespeare or Junot Diaz or studying art from another culture, you have the opportunity to discover new worlds for yourself.
Several speakers discussed James Baldwin’s command that artists “disturb the world.” For some, this may be political as so much great art is a moving response to oppression and violence. Alvin Ailey did this powerfully with his choreography for “Revelations” and Picasso changed the very meaning of art with his painting “Guernica” Today, hip-hop has expanded on this tradition through the rhymes of Kendrick Lamar or Taylor the Creator and the videos of Beyoncé. As the photojournalist Eli Reed said that night, for artists such as these, “Resistance in art is not political; it is existential.” I don’t know if he meant to be ironic when he later said “I’ll bet a lot of great art will come out of the Trump presidency.”
There are, however, less political ways to “disturb the world.” Nafasi spoke of her desire to “challenge the atrophy of feelings” in order to “awaken the consciousness.” Art should have a visceral power; it should make us feel more strongly, love more deeply, and care more profoundly. The same movie can make us laugh and cry, a dance can inspire us and a song can evoke overwhelming memories. Done well, art “makes the ordinary less ordinary” and our world more magical.
With very little artistic talent of my own, I have helped to create two arts schools. I think it is because I feel so inspired and moved to be around such creative students and teachers. Their energy, creativity and resourcefulness inspires and energizes me. We all need the arts to make ourselves more caring, thoughtful, and stimulating, and to create a world that is more connected, just and innovative.
Dear LoMA Family,
The following is my manifesto for my 12th grade art project. It’s a year-long project. I've decided to create self-portraits, which allows me to see myself in different ways. I was uncomfortable with them before because really, who likes to stare at themselves and all of the things they do not like? However, as time passed I've accepted myself and see how important self-portraits are.
Recently, I came across this quote, "Art is a lie that helps us see the truth about ourselves". As soon as I read that quote I thought, oh sh*t that’s perfect for my manifesto. A lot of messages have been smacking me in the face lately, it feels crazy like the universe is talking to me. I'm so happy this is all happening, "Universe it’s me, I'm here, I see that you've decided to get back to me".
So like I said before, when I read that quote I almost sh*tted on myself. I used the word sh*t because I can (Don't go around using sh*t all willy-nilly kiddos. It's for the effectiveness of my manifesto).
This is my manifesto and I can.
That's the thing that makes art so absolutely positively perfect; I can do what I want, how I want, with materials I want, using the ideas I want, asking the questions I have, being daring when I can't otherwise, and just having fun.
The other perfect thing about art is exactly what the man said (“the man” being P-fizzle, P-fizzle being Pablo Picasso, duh). My work allows me to see who I am and how I really feel about myself, but I never realized that it's seeped through until afterwards.
I want to keep writing about what I learn, my perspective and all the new things I encounter, but it’s still all in process. Don't worry, I will keep you updated.
Gosh, I hope I don't suddenly think of what else I could have written while I’m croaking on my deathbed 231662726527892 years from now.
I JUST REALIZED
Death by art would be a lovely way to go out.
I wouldn't mind it.
I really don't want to die mid-sentence, though.
How did this become a conversation about dying?
Hmm, another beautiful thing about art.
CAN PEOPLE DIE MID POOP?
Don’t push too hard. You might get hemorrhoids and die.