[Guest Post] from the desk of good friend Stephanie Butler~
Art without mystery
EUROPEAN ART FAIR MONACO www.grimaldiforum.com
Author Nick Hornby's famous quote summarizes beautifully the conundrum of the relationship between emotion and art. I sometimes wonder if art encourages active passivity, in which we engage with ideas and beliefs unquestioningly. In other words, the worldviews pushed by art are consequently legitimized "in the name of art."
If this is true, I submit to the reader the idea that art has a responsibility to affirm the True Self. Ayn Rand's Howard Roarke comes to mind, along with the representation(s) of humans as heroes, and that nature is kind and beautiful. This doesn't mean that art should deny reality. In fact, art has the opportunity in its presentation to question collective ethics and beliefs and is in fact used for this purpose in political art and, conversely, the criticism of propaganda.
There are, sadly, few writings that question the nature of art itself outside of comedy. Ayn Rand's The Romantic Manifesto is one of these rare occurrences, as well as Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. If we aren't counting clever quips from William "all the world's a stage" Shakespeare, it seems that post-modernism can be credited with bringing self-awareness to art.
Art, in and of itself, obviously does not have an ethical duty - because art is made by individuals expressing their worldview, take it or leave it. But we as spectators have a choice as to what ideas we accept and shape our reality with. Whether art offers this choice, of course, should not be left up to art, but to the heart.
Art will sometimes inspire emotion, teasing out the beliefs we hold, that art could be unwittingly reinforcing. The purest artistic expression, in my opinion, asks the spectator for self-awareness. Art that is reflective, and not just simply telling a story. I think that art can be a great tool for self-awareness, and is the most efficient use of this ancient practice.