The first time I thought I understood art was when we took a class trip to the Helsinki fine art museum, Ateneum. We had an assignment to choose one of the works on show and draw it to the best of our capability. I chose this one:
I still can’t quite express the entirety of it (nor am I entirely sure I’m willing to talk about it in such a public setting) but the painting spoke to me in a way that nothing before that had. Up until that moment I had just assumed that art was about pictures somebody arbitrarily decided were worth a lot of money. Something for rich and cultured people, something I most definitely was not, especially not fourteen.
Later on in life I saw the Mona Lisa and I gotta tell you, I was not impressed. I mean she’s mesmerizing and all, just not the moving experience that some other works have been for me. Art is an individual experience. This past week my partner and I went to see an exhibition at the Helsinki fine art museum and I was reminded of that first experience in living color no less. And it’s got me thinking about something that I’ve been wondering about for a long time; what is the thing that makes humanity unique?
Clearly it cannot be language; birds, mammals, even some insects have forms of communication that – while usually not concerned overmuch with matters abstract or insubstantial – is none the less a form of language. Tools are common too, as is some level of intelligence. Of course one can always maintain that that there’s nothing special about humanity and most of the time I would be happy to agree.
But as far as I’m aware, only humanity makes and appreciates art as a way of making sense of the world. Art is and should be as much a part of life as good bread and clean water. Which means that as far as I’m concerned, it should be accessible for everyone and we should do better at making it happen.
Feel free to share your own experiences about moving art moments!