Guernica by Pablo Picasso

On Works Of Art

“How do we see works of art? What is beauty in art? Is beauty even attainable or worth striving for? What should art be? Questions worth pondering yet possibly as unanswerable as the proverbial ‘What is Art?”  *

Song of the Coast by Jeff Faust
Song of the Coast by Jeff Faust

How do I see works of Art? What is beauty in art? I see art as a visual means to an open conversation or a profound statement that leads to, first, a visual arousal, then an intellectual provocation and, if really compelling, it can even trigger an emotional climax. Examples that come to mind: Song of the Coast by Jeff Faust, Bond of Union by M.C Escher and Nurturing Earth Mother by Frida Kahlo.

Sometimes art can also evoke a religious experience as it has the power to connect the viewer with the sacred and the divine. Tulips & Apples by Sandra (Kiki) Thome and my, The Ultimate Sacrifice, fall within this category. However, I seldom find art of such caliber that it leaves an indelible impression. That brings me to the second part of the question. When art is experienced in a way that the viewer is changed forever, that is beauty in art.

Is beauty even attainable or worth striving for?Absolutely! Time and again I’ve seen paintings that have left me in a total state of awe, even moved me to create poetry, from experiencing the magic, the romance, and the awesomeness possible on a two dimensional surface.

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Guernica by Pablo Picasso
Guernica by Pablo Picasso

What should Art be? Impact is what art should be, period. An invitation to an open conversation that engages the viewer, an educational experience that can be a delight to the eyes, a means of provoking, arousing, stimulating, and challenging the intellect. Guernica by Pablo Picasso is a prime example insomuch that, despite the context being most horrific and ugly, it leaves the viewer to experience the horrors of war in a most beautiful and profound way. I remember well when I first saw it and how it changed me as a person forever. Picasso is not my favorite artist (he’s not even on my list of top ten), however, I hear his message loud and clear and I experience the ugliness and horrors of war, the way he saw them, without witnessing them firsthand. That is his genius. That is art.

*From the introduction by M.T. McClanahan to the Dec. 2013 edition of Speaking On Art

12 thoughts on “On Works Of Art”

    1. I really like the quote by Banksy: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. In the end it is all about connection, making an impact and hopefully leaving this world a much better place by contributing to it.

  1. Roopa, when you hoover over an image, or click to enlarge, the information is displayed. I was having trouble getting the layout right with the captions displayed. I’ll try again though.

  2. I have to agree with the “impact” mentioned above; true art should leave a mark on your soul. To me it is memorable good or bad.

    1. Sandra, I like your “visual sanctuary”, like it is a personal, private dialog between viewer and art.

      And mk, I agree that good art edifies. I might even say that bad art takes something away from the soul.

      1. MT – “Bad art takes something away from the soul”. That statement is profound because like good art, it too has an impact. But not the kind that we want. Very well said. Perhaps we need an Art Police Force to save us from the horrors of bad art. I now wonder if that is why they established the MOBA – Museum of Bad Art?

        1. “Art Police Force”, now that’s scary! I know you’re kidding but can you imagine!?! And yet it is a reality in some parts of the world. That is what I say is great about our system here, it gives one the freedom to fail. And failing is necessary isn’t it, to succeeding?

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