land of rest

Land of Rest is a blog of Peter Jenks. Poems, quotes and photos are by Peter Jenks (unless otherwise noted or I miss noting an older post's photo) and are copyrighted, you are free to use these if you acknowledge their source.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What is "it"?

Having recently seen several different art shows and heard various art talks I have been struck by the question, “what is it that makes something speak to me artistically?” Some of the work I saw was rather boring; some very beautiful, but the flash of wow left me feeling like something was missing; and some of the works moved my heart and soul into a place that is both wounded and divine with great poignancy.

I have heard people talk about different performances by musicians, some are very good at playing the notes well and others might miss a few notes but carries the soul of the piece out into the hearer’s heart. What makes for the difference in such performances? It is not always the case that the well played piece does not have the same soul to it, there are moments when this magic and the well played piece are one in the same. And there are times when people try for the soul and are just plan sloppy.

It is a hard thing to describe, but there are some works of art that have elevated my life or connected with my understanding and experience in such a way that I will never be the same. Once I had a surgery in which I almost died, after I had recovered and began going about my life again I came upon a painting that somehow portrayed the experience my inner awareness felt or knew in my near death experience. Simply seeing it portrayed, seeing that someone else knew what was held secret in my soul, brought great comfort and a healing awareness to me.

Much of the art I saw recently was displayed in ways that would lead people to buy it, which is important for the well being of the artist and gallery. But beauty alone or innovation alone, or craftsmanship alone can lead the piece of artwork into that place where we are changed. What is it? I think that sometimes the marketing of art inhibits such creativity. Public work that is displayed without aim of sales might help. The need to be touched and to see such transforming art is like the desire for water or companionship.

We see this “it” this transcendent power most often in nature, when we take the time to look. This need for transcendence is a great reason we need to protect our environment. But the ways in which someone else has experienced nature, life and this journey we are on and can express it with such depth on canvas or in verse or through sound is crucial for us to truly know that we, too, are somehow connected and seen.

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