Art and the rush of feelings
It’s pretty clear to me that people can learn about art. You can learn what has made certain pieces historically and culturally important. You can learn how such pieces were made and how they were received by the art community. You can learn about the history of the artist, what was happening in their lives at the time they were making art, and some of the motivations behind the art.
But does all this add up to actually "getting it"? Does understanding all this help you with creating your own art? Is your creative output even considered art? Who makes the call on if something is art or not anyway? Does any of this help explain why you like a certain piece of art? Or maybe it helps to explain why you don’t like certain pieces too.
I must say that I don’t know the answers to these questions. Well, I should clarify. I know the answers for myself, personally, but I couldn’t tell you that I know the answers for anyone else.
I take somewhat of an impersonal interest in most art. I enjoy looking at art in general, but much of my enjoyment comes from the anthropological interest. I like to see how they portray beauty. You can see what beauty was like in certain eras and in certain cultures.
As for other art that I like, I find that it provokes something inside of me, a kind of visceral reaction. I can’t explain it well, other than the gut feeling of "Oooh, I like this!" I wish I could explain it better, to help someone else understand why a piece moves me, why it makes me feel the way I do. I suppose that no one else could really feel art the same exact way as I do. When I look at certain pieces of art, I can feel memories float to the surface and each memory’s associated feelings. Sometimes they bubble up all at once, and sometimes there is barely a glimmer.
For me, this is what makes art so personal and important. I couldn’t tell someone else why they should like something, but I could maybe try to tell them why I like it. Of course, I usually fail completely at this part, expressing my reaction to someone else and trying to make them understand. It always seems to fall short and it makes me wish that I was more eloquently gifted. Sure, I can string words together, but sometimes forming my feelings and thoughts into such a string of words that makes sense is much too difficult.
Telling someone that a photograph makes me feel sad is easy, but telling them exactly why it makes me feel that way is infinitely difficult. Can I reasonably explain to them how it reminded me of a dead friend whose wrists were delicate and held in just the same manner? Could I possibly express that it makes me thinks about the profound sadness and futility I felt when I came upon a dog that had been hit by a car? Could I even distill all these rushing thoughts and feelings into something so concrete as to tell someone about each one and how they combine to give me the overall feeling? Somehow, I don’t know if I could do that on the spot and would prefer to say, "Hmm, this makes me feel sad," and leave it at that.