I enjoyed a lovely evening with my friend Susan last night. We ate a dinner of wasabi salmon on a delicious bed of spinach with sides of steamed vegetables and rice at Charlie’s in the Goss Opera House. A little wine, dimmed lights, exposed bricks while the likes of Billie Holiday synchronized with our conversation about weddings and parenting. I could almost believe that I was in an intimate restaurant in a foreign city. Until I looked out the window at the run down bike shop across the street. The ambience followed us as we wandered upstairs through the art gallery to view Merenda Turbak’s display. I love her art, by the way, and highly recommend you check it out here… www.merandaturbak.com.
This is my favorite. My friend wasn’t as fond of it as she pointed out all the beautiful parts that clashed with the ugly parts, like the woman’s face. In further discussion, I concluded that all beauty has its own ugliness, even people, and declared it my favorite.
While strolling through the second floor display comprised of other local artists, one particular piece caught my eye. It depicted a city street corner with buildings and lights painted with abstract strokes. In the center stood an asian man. His arms extended as he threw his head back in joy. Pure Joy!
“Now, that’s art.”
What is art? freedictionary.com defines it as: n. 1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. Or there’s Free Miriam Webster Dictionaries definition: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects. Tolstoy and many others have tried to define art.
I’m not going to dig into the philosophy of “What is Art“.
But I have maintained for many years that literature is not art. A passage may be written artistically, but a novel or short story, in whole, is not art. If you read on my “About the Author page”, I maintain that literature is a puzzle. It’s a challenge of the mind to put together a story, using words, to make a point. Or simply to expose the reader to another view-point. Literature is a lesson in others, a lesson we often forget as we walk through our day to day lives. Literature is also, as I said in my last post, a friend who reminds us that for every experience, someone else in the world has had one similar. We feel less alone. Literature can expose us to another land, as Arundhati Roy did in “The God of Small Things“, where we meet other cultures.
I spent my childhood in art museums. My mother drug us through a museum in every european city we visited, excluding the Louvre. They were constructing the glass pyramid entrances when we visited Paris. I marveled over Monet, Manet, Bramante, Alberti, and the Ninja Turtle namesakes, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Monet was my favorite for many years and I studied his landscapes with a learned critical eye. As I matured, I found landscapes boring and became enamoured with art that told me stories, like Waterhouse’s “Lady of Shalott“.
Now, I look for an emotion in art. Like the asian man in joy.
If one used the definition of art being something that evokes emotion, the I can support literature as an art. Conveying emotion through words is a rare ability and a difficult task. It’s one of the biggest challenge I have when writing my novels. Despite what many think, it’s not as simple as, “Lisa was sad.” Instead, one must use setting, objects, dialogue, and anything else to convey a characters sadness. Or joy. Or fear.
Is it art? Or is it a puzzle? In the end, it doesn’t matter. I simply know it when I see it.