Weeds, Beauty and the Purpose of Art
If you know a creative person, or happen to be one, you are probably aware of the universal question that we all battle at one time or another….”Does what I do matter...at all?”
Does my writing make a difference?
Does my acting mean anything?
Do my paintings really matter?
Am I wasting my life by pursuing my love of singing and music making?
There are so many forms to this conundrum, but the underlying premise is the same...does art valuable, does it make a difference. Why pursue it?
I’ve personally wrestled with this question since I decided to become a professional painter ten years ago. I’ve come up with many rationalizations and half-hearted, half-believed convictions about the importance of art (mostly based on what other people told me I should believe), but it wasn’t until a family bike ride a couple years ago that I really started to understand the vital nature of art, the absolute necessity of it in our broken, wounded world.
It began with weeds….
During this bike ride, I was really struggling with the validity of my career path. What in the world was I contributing to the world? My husband brings water from one end of the state to the other so people can grow things and have water to drink. My sister in law saves lives in the cardiac ICU. My friends teach, care, and serve. My parents help protect families and individuals in the face of disasters and accidents through their company.
I paint…. I sit in a studio and paint. When I compare (which is a horrible thing to do….don’t do it!) my career with those around me, I feel completely useless, lame, and selfish. Big old zero….
That’s where I was when we started on our bike ride. Not a good place.
While I was carrying up the rear of our bike line (this is usual my place these days), I noticed some unassuming purple flowering plants along the bike trail. Huh...I took a closer look as I rode along and realized that these beautiful, delicate flowers were weeds...of all things. Weeds.
And a thought was whispered into my heart of hearts as I considered those flowers (I believe in God, so indulge me a moment if that’s not your thing…)
“Just as I made those mighty mountains and plains, I made those weeds and they are important to me. They show my beauty. They matter.”
Whoa…. I was suddenly very aware of how my dismissal of the beauty I try to create via painting..something I feel compelled and designed to do...was like dismissing the beauty of the purple flowers dancing in the wind along this path. Yep, they were weeds, but they had a purpose and a place.
Art has a purpose and a place.
Humans need art because we need beauty. We need something that removes the temporal and forces us to consider the eternal, the supernatural, the deeper elements of life.
Without songs, stories, expressive paintings (realistic or abstract), performance, and all other artforms, we would not be compelled to that deeper level of existence we need to travel in order to make sense of life and our world. Art touches our souls. Nothing else feeds a soul like art in all its different forms. Think about it….the big revelations, beliefs, spiritual encounters that you have had...many of the things that make you you, did they involve art? Most of my big moments happened in relation to stories and nature. Art made by man and art made by God. I know I’m not alone in this.
Art pushes, it confronts, it can calm, heal...it has so many different ways of doing its good work.
There are so many different takes on the purpose of art. My own understanding of the importance of my job as an artist will probably evolve as well, but this particular experience gave me a profound starting point. The Master Artist I follow and adore pointed out His work to me one afternoon and since it so profoundly changed my view of myself, I know that art is powerful and a very valuable part of our human experience.
My life would be so “lifeless” without the stunning sunsets, breaks in the clouds during storms, fall foliage, lush spring greens, unique boulders and hills….
...purple, swaying weeds that remind me that my life matters because Someone designed me to paint the beauty of the world around me that points to Him.
Tell me, what do you think art is for? What kind of difference has it made in your life?