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For the Love of Art

Neil deGrasse Tyson (I think he's someone famous in America?) wrote on twitter:  "Creativity that satisfies & affirms your world view is Entertainment. Creativity that challenges & disrupts your world view is Art."

I replied from a place of deep, womanly weariness. Why must we persist with this notion that art has to be adversarial to the artist and audience? Why are we so set on disrupting ourselves and others? Does there ever come a time when we are permitted comfort, certainty, peace?

I believe great art uplifts and encourages both the artist and their audience. I believe that the gifts of joyfulness, satisfaction, affirmation, acknowledgment, reflection, and transcendence allow for a far deeper experience than entertainment. Art like this can help us name ourselves, accept ourselves, and even save lives.

Several months ago, I began writing something which I loved. It was inspired by a sentence fragment someone tweeted - a tiny bit of affirmative art. I empathised with what they wrote and it drew me into my own creativity.

But over time I began to worry that the project was not clever enough. Not challenging enough to the awful state of political, social, and economic affairs all over the world at the moment. It seemed merely entertainment. I knew I could produce something "better" than that, so I set aside my project and tried working on others. Politically motivated stories. Mythically resonant stories. Stories that would really mean something. But none of them worked.

So I looked again at my original project. And a great swell of emotion immediately went through me - as if the potential story was a living thing, and I felt empathy for it, love for it, a sense of homecoming. I felt the racing heart and trembling nerves which come with knowing you are in a satisfying relationship with Life. This is not just entertainment. This is the universe speaking story to a need in me. I write back to continue the conversation.

I'm not creating anything that scares me, challenges my world view, or threatens the certainties of other people. I'm writing something Life wants to say, and its coming through me because I empathise with it, resonate with it - not even on an intellectual level, but in my blood somehow. This is a joyful collaborative experience. The muse/creative force lifts me up and strengthens me so I can do the work. It sends me fabulous music and showers me with images. And it makes me happy so I want to do the work. I'm not being entertained, I'm being cared for. Hopefully if I get it written and sent out into the world, others might feel that the story cares for them in some way also. It won't be especially clever, innovative, or remarkable, but maybe it will reflect some people's experience, give them permission to be more true to themselves, encourage them, or reassure them that they are not alone in the way they see the world. These seem like powerful and valid aims for an artist.

Maybe it will even be entertaining as well.


  1. ps, it's very hard for me to write on a subject like this without fearing I come across as too bold, overconfident, arrogant, etc. At the same time, I'm trying to heed advice that a writer should not be apologetic for their work. I wonder if men have this same problem or if it's due to the social training women my age got as they were growing up - be humble, modest, self-effacing. Don't toot your own horn.

  2. Yes to your post. Yes. We must create what the lifeforce in us compels us to create. I'm glad you're listening to what wants to come through.

    And yes to your comment. It's time to be bold and confident. I struggle with this too. I am not confident because I've internalized "be nice, be quiet, put others first, don't be proud" and, while there's something to be said for respecting others, messages that don't balance this put us in a cage of crippled self-worth. I'm still dealing with those bars.

  3. I certainly paint for my own pleasure. My only other goal after that, or hope rather, is that somebody else here and there might enjoy the images too, be happy, soothed, or just think they're pretty. If I sometimes get an "idea" of a "concept" or a meaning, it's really just a fleeting impression.

    How is it not a worthy goal to spread happiness? Entertainment = relaxation = we all need more or that in this chaos.

  4. i completely concur---art need not be adversarial, shocking, unpleasant, or simply new for novelty's sake. it need not "confront" the viewer with anything uncomfortable. indeed, i think that there is great validity in art that is simply beautiful, comforting, and uplifting. art can, rather like the people who create and view/read/use it, be anything. it can and should reflect the whole of human experience.

    of course, poor neil de grassy tyson has spent the last several years speaking out on the need to question, to explore options, to do good science rather than making "facts" fit a profit-based pre-conclusion...he is a scientist and public television presenter trying to rally over-worked, sluggish, poorly educated americans to do *something* about the pitiful state of our government. his comments on art stem from the fact that our anti-arts government has plans to shutter public broadcasting (because it is essentially inimical to fascist leaning politics) and has demonstrated wanton dishonesty and disregard for actual science or nature and art and social care programs. thus, tyson's statement was meant in defence of independent arts and educational (and news reporting) offerings that aren't beholden to government funding or large broadcast corporation profit motives. sigh.

    but for individual artists working in the service of their muses, there is nothing at all wrong with making art that cheers and comforts and adds sweetness to daily life. heavens, no. if anything, we need lots of that...

  5. Why are we insulted by the word 'entertainment' as if it is a second class response to what we create? I think entertainment makes life more bearable for a lot of people (definitely it does for me!) And some of it may even be art.

    I have this fear that the internet has turned everyone into an artist in his own eyes. No one is content anymore to be a craftsmen, student, or dabbler. Everyone has a 'studio' these days. It goes hand-in-hand with perfectly staged photos and posts all primed for pinning that have nothing at all to do with life .

    And art has to do with life.

    1. I'm not insulted at all by the word, entertainment is very important, only in the context of the quote I felt it was unhelpful. Infact I believe that art which challenge and disturbs us makes up the majority of entertainment available on tv and in the movies these days. My argument was focussed on the idea that art which affirms the identity, persepective, experiences, etc, of the artist and their audience is just as much art as that which challenges and debates us. :-) <3

  6. In a bit of synchronicity, on the same day I read this I came across another blog post that takes issue with the same Tyson quote. I guess this is what happens when you try to fashion a catchy aphorism out of a complex subject. :) http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/03/06/maybe-neil-degrasse-tyson-should-embrace-the-humanities-more/


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