I wondered where the phrase “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”, came from? The answer was not clear. The first time I heard it was from an Art teacher I had in the 9th grade. He seemed to be personally offended by the phrase, and brought it up often. He then would explain that “we don’t inform art, that art informs us”.
This art teacher also believed that it wasn’t really our decision if “art was art”. He said that art had its own role and purpose. That leaves the question of whether art is a reflection of the artist’s feelings, or if art created those feelings? Interesting questions seem to have more than one answer sometimes.
Oscar Wilde, in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying said that: “Life imitates Art, more than Art imitates Life, and what is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists taught people to find there, through art”.
Do we really see what is there or what an artist taught us to see? It has been found that people do see what they are conditioned to see. When people are hypnotized and asked about what they saw when they walked through a room they have very different answers than when not hypnotized. They can remember the number of tiles on the ceiling or even the faces on the magazines that might have been present. They can’t remember those things otherwise. Their conscious mind was not interested in them. Those who believe that the artists taught us to see will like this.
This same teacher showed us a pottery wheel. He took a lump of clay and as the wheel was spinning he created bowls and vases. He told us that the clay could talk to us and what we finished with would be different than what we intended, but if we listened to the clay it would be better.
Those blessed with creativity are still people. The do put their pants on one leg at a time. Some writers show their humanness in feelings expressed in their personal stories. New Mexico holds a real mystic for writers and they mention their time there often in their stories. One writer, in a book about writing, talked about how to write in a restaurant and the examples were from Taos and Santa Fe. Tony Hillerman is one of the best known New Mexico authors and novelists. Much of what he wrote offers some justification for being fascinated with New Mexico. Through his stories, you saw the cultures reflected in the art of its people, especially the Navajo. The stories were told as he saw it or perhaps as other artists taught him to see it.
Art is a path to connections that can help us see ourselves differently. We can become better than we are by re-looking at the connections.