Archives for posts with tag: Meaning of Art

I recently watched a video on Visual Art and Color from The Science of the Arts conference, hosted by the Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins.

The panel of speakers, Jeremy Nathans (Biologist, Johns Hopkins?), Margaret Livingstone (Neuroscientist, Harvard), and William Stoehr (Boulder Artist), had many compelling ideas to share, with good scientific background: Color provides information about identity; The yellow from the light wavelength spectrum is not physically the same yellow that comes from combining the red and green wavelengths; We visually process images (and in particular, faces) by how they differ from the average; and more.

At the very end of the panel discussion, a provocative question was raised in the audience: If color is helpful for survival, what is the survival advantage of art? Jeremy Nathans proposed that art is something of an epi-phenomenon – because our brains are so powerful and built to manage so much complexity, art probably arose as a “side effect”, but it’s not essential. However, Margaret Livingstone commented that art comes out of communication, which is a fairly low-level survival skill, implying that there is a possibility that art is a necessary survival skill in some way.

And my thought is, besides storytelling, communication, and other historical reasons, there is something in the undercurrent of art that is necessary for our brain function. The ability to innovate, build, and even survive seems highly dependent on the process of switching back and forth from verbal to non-verbal (see recent post), and there is no way we could have evolved into the society that we are now without that creative process and expression. Perhaps there is a difference between art that is necessary for the individual’s survival vs. art necessary for society’s survival?

Elizabeth Dee was featured in an article in the October issue of Vogue magazine, titled “Dee’s Day”. The article primarily highlights her accomplishments in the art world, including owning her own gallery and launching a unique project called the X-initiative – a one year project including “durational artist interventions, site-specific projects, historical in- depth exhibitions, one-night performances, lectures and weekly events”.

Her gallery, and the X-initiative, features younger artists, carving out new territory, responding to the economy with less permanent mediums and with collaborations that stretch into the unknown. All of this is very cool. Collaborations are just one of many systems that help me plug into the world. What piqued my interest in particular was something she said about the meaning of art:

“Art is not meant to answer questions. It’s meant to demonstrate possibilities.”

This made me wonder – what is the difference between answering a question and demonstrating possibilities? Strangely enough, my response comes from my business background. A leader does not answer the question for you, forcing only one right way. Instead, a true leader is one who enables those around them to thrive, investigate, discover.. She leads you along, so that you may find the answer yourself. It seems that this is what art is always doing, and it seems funny to acknowledge this in the face of a long time trend of asking the question – what does art mean?

Then I can ask more of this thread (and of course it could keep going…). Does this then mean that is art less “finished” because it’s demonstrating possibilities, instead of answering questions? Because artists are purposefully not making the answers clear (if there are any at all)? Because they are creating in new mediums, exploring boundaries and possibilities just in the process, forcing curators and collectors to help “finish” the piece by placing it somehow in a space?