Friday, July 3, 2009

Art Needs the Engagement of Artist and Audience Both

Following up from my post yesterday with some thoughts about art and the artistic process. . .

Just as being true to one's calling as an artist requires the artist to have a generous mindfulness of his (or her) audience during the creative process (yet still maintaining his own special vision and insight), so too the audience taking in a work of art needs to be open to the artwork and what it might communicate to them. There needs to be a relationship of sorts between the artwork and the audience, an open interchange of spirits transcending isolated selves, in order for art to serve as art.

I could walk into an art museum and wander around looking at great works of art, yet not have an experience of the greatness of the art. I might be closed up within myself--my heart, mind, and soul hardened, preoccupied, stale. Or, perhaps I were simply lazy and gazed around without any effort to see what was there to be seen. It is possible to look upon even great artworks and, because of something going on (or not going on) in ourselves, not be able to receive what they have to say. Art is not a static thing. It involves a real spiritual dynamism, a reaching-out of persons, an intersection of lives.

And so the audience also has to engage. They have to be receptive, open, willing to work to discover what the art has to say.

Together with what I wrote yesterday, and considering the whole context in which art truly serves as art including the creation, presentation, and reception by an audience, this means that the dynamism of the phenomenon of art, when it is fruitful--when it brings the audience into an experience of lasting meaningfulness, of real depth and poignancy--when it succeeds as art--is endowed with a concurring spirit of openness and receptivity to each other in both the artist and the audience. The interchange is human: personal, somewhat mysterious, unpretentious.

A gifted artist may assist the audience to awaken from any sort of self-enclosure; he may invite them with his artwork to open up their spirits. But he may not force them. They remain free, as does the artist remain free himself, to hold themselves (himself) in solipsism. But when art and audience are both as they should be, cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaks to heart).

[This post again reflects insights shared with me by my friend Rachel]


  1. What an eloquent summation of these ideas, Scott! I like your description of the interaction as human: personal, somewhat mysterious, unpretentious. It makes me want to go be human at the nearest museum. :)

  2. Thanks, Rachel!



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