It's not about being pretty

"The point of art is not beauty but awareness."

I recently heard Milton Glaser say that on CBC radio and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. It's one of those statements that you understand instantly, as though you've always known it, but find exhilarating in its freshness and appositivity (?).

I think I've always had an instinctive, though not explicit, understanding of this awareness principle as applied to story -- both books and movies -- but in visual art I've always been looking for beauty. This accounts for the ambivalence I felt toward art therapy. I know beauty is powerful, but is a bit of pretty really enough to heal?

Awareness, however; I see the point in that. And suddenly, with that simple statement, not only do I understand why art is for everyone, why public art leads to public good, but I also see the point of more abstract art. Piet Mondriaan's cubism, I maybe don't quite appreciate yet, but this statement has brought me much closer.

And it explains why we should care about art. Again, a quest for beauty doesn't quite justify the resources poured into art; but a tool for awareness, a tool for the self-discovery of new ideas and issues -- that has value.


Popular Posts