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How To Find Purpose In Art

How To Find Purpose In Art

While art has always been a significant part of culture, expression, and communication, it has become even more unique and diverse with social media, graphic arts, and traditional arts. We see art all around us without even consciously realizing it. There is creative design in the latest reusable water bottle you picked up, on the container of your favorite protein bar, and in the signage of your favorite store. You might not always be aware of the influence art has on your daily life. There are a couple ways to answer the question of how to find purpose in art. One is from the artist’s view. The one who visualizes and executes an idea, thought, or notion. Another is through the onlooker’s view. The person who interoperates and critiques a piece.

The Artist

The artist often finds purpose in using their hands to create something that is in their head. Of course, this is different for graphic artists who instead use their mouse. Many artists feel very connected to the medium that they have chosen to create within. This medium could be ceramic, oil painting, photography, charcoal, and so on. Nearly every artist puts a piece of themselves into their work. While this can refer to some form of emotional value, it can also be a signature or a stamp of some sort. Ceramic artists can be identified through shapes, handprints, or symbols carved into their pieces. Oil Painters can often be determined by the subject of their painting as well as the brush strokes that exist within their work. The purpose of this expression can be an emotional outlet just as much as it can be for production art with the intent to sell. Asking an artist about the purpose of their work is the best way to identify how they feel. This can also be found in an artist statement that is commonly associated with a body of work on display.


The Interpreter

Art does not become famous without enough people commenting on the value of a piece. Consider the famous painting Starry Night. This piece was not truly established until the artist was dead, and enough people claimed it was a masterpiece. Like most things, art becomes famous via word of mouth or, in our current day in age, social media.

What to Look For

The most successful pieces of art are the most original. Concepts that haven’t been expressed via a canvas, paper, or clay. If an artist can successfully portray something unique, they will likely be recognized within the art community. This is highly challenging as many artistic expressions within art have been displayed by someone somewhere. Already having a background in art history will aid you greatly with what to look for. Making simple observations of brush strokes, materials used, size, and color will give you a good start. The purpose of art is to be observed, so use your senses to monitor accordingly. Another essential thing to look for is the feeling that is provoked inside you. You likely had a sensation in the movie Endgame because most of your favorite characters literally disappear. Art’s purpose is to generate a feeling or be used as something functional. This is easier to do with three-dimensional art as it can be used as a teapot. Nonfunctional such as a painting, strives to provoke a feeling.


Interactive Art

A whole movement of art has been focused primarily on provoking a feeling. While the visual is significant, the true purpose is to connect the feelings you have about a topic or your own emotions to an interactive installation or piece of art. Marina Abromovic is an excellent example as she is easily one of the most influential artists utilizing feeling as purpose in her art. Her use of performance art is clearly modeled to affect the areas in society that we struggle the most with. In the piece “The Artist Is Present,” Abromovic uses eye contact to battle the problems that technology has presented in our culture. She explains that people are so addicted to their phones that they don’t look at another person in the present time. Many people that came to sit with Abromovic became emotional. She later explains, “while you’re having this gaze and looking at me, you start having this invert, and you start looking at yourself. So, I am just a trigger, I am just a mirror, and actually, they become aware of their own life, of their own vulnerability, of their own pain, of everything.” This truly represents what she is trying to accomplish with her artwork. To bring people to the present time by staring at another person. Connecting with the energies of the people sitting across from her, Abromovic has used art to form deep connections with the 1,565 pairs of eyes that communicated with her in a profound and meaningful way.

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Change Your Thinking

If you cannot stay open-minded while viewing a piece of art or being in its presence, it is likely a result of a trigger. Note that this is not always the case as there are many examples of art that are functional and artists that accompany them. Simply viewing a piece and identifying the functionality, your own feelings towards it, and acknowledging the artist’s words or thoughts will lead you to the purpose of the piece.

 Art can be very loud and provoking when needed. Most recently, murals of George Floyd or the Black Lives Matter installation in Washington D.C. provoked a robust response in the interpreter. Art is influential when it finds purpose, and having the ability to understand and interoperate that art takes time and knowledge about why it is there. Take the time to seek out the purpose of the art that is around you from graffiti, politically based art, traditional art, or artistic expression. If you want to understand the purpose of art further, listen to artists, research, interoperate and ask questions about specific pieces.

What is your favorite art or artist, and why?