As much as some people love to say otherwise, art and the ability to make it is a talent. Doubly true, it is a talent that not everybody has. That’s part of what makes is special: if everybody could paint with the skill and technique of the old masters, or even just than one kid in your art class, art museums just wouldn’t be so special. It’s not just painting, either: photography, drawing, tattoos, and calligraphy all require a certain degree of talent to accompany learned skill and aesthetic sense.
But by saying that we aren’t all talented at art doesn’t mean we can’t create. I recently read a short piece by a friend where she commented on her lack of artistic talent, and why she chose to create anyway. Even when the best products we can create are rough around the edges, we still seem to desire the act of creation. It is such an integral part of humanity that we dedicate millions, even billions of dollars to funding building to house creations, to house the tools and space to create–we teach our children how to smear paint across paper and sprinkle glitter in glue, we laugh and clap when an elephant picks up a paintbrush and draws a rough likeness of something we recognize, and we study all forms of it, throughout our own educations. Humans have an obsession with the act of creation.
No, that wasn’t a sex joke. Get your head out of the gutter.
Why would we want to bring our ideas, as fragile as they are, into the world in such a physical, tangible way? In a place where they can get spit on, kicked about, and, even worse, forgotten, why would we ever give them a shape and a place in existence? It is some sort of bizarre, subconscious voyeurism, or just an aesthetic sense that refuses to be silenced? Why would we even have an aesthetic sense–what does it lend to our survival?
I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know. Despite it all, we will continue to create art, or some bastardization thereof, regardless of whether or not we own the talent: why would we ever stop?
My own aesthetic sense is about as strong as a runt dog, but I still create. I have minimal ability in the visual arts, and the best I can do is draw a straight line and take a photograph with decent composition, and yet I have the same deep-seated desire to create that we all seem to have. Perhaps directed in a different way, but the same, nonetheless.
Instead of arranging pixels or paints or pencils, I arrange words. It may not be something everybody can do, certainly not in the same way, but it is something. It is my act of creation, my own shout into the void. In my words, weak as they are, I can express something that nobody else has ever felt, and will never feel again, even if it is the same thing we have all felt a million times. My way of experiencing an event is wholly unlike yours, and theirs, and even that one person over there in the corner, rocking back and forth.
Art, at the lowest level, expressing something. Whatever it may be, it is both completely unlike and completely like anything and everything we’ve ever experienced. My sadness is not your sadness, and yet everybody has been sad. Your happiness is not my happiness, and yet everybody has been happy, if only for a few moments. Even once we are gone, happiness and sadness will continue on. Eventually, our ways of saying things will be replaced: the word for happy will evolve into something new as English changes or a new language dominates, sadness will be experienced in different ways as we evolve. And yet, art is still universal.
What else can we look at hundreds, even thousands of years later, and learn both about the creators and ourselves?
Maybe art is what it will take to make us recognize what we are: a force of nature, so tiny in the scale of the universe. Possibly existing on the only floating rock capable of supporting life forms, and yet not so alone in this great world. The cosmos is not, never will be, our oyster, but it is a great, sweeping reality for us to rejoice in and explore. So let us go and adventure, let us ask questions and create and dream, because the world will be just the same way it’s always been: never what it was before.