Deep Thought Thursday: Art in the evolutionary process

(Thanks to Richard Chapman for the heads up on this article. I rarely find myself in the Science section of the paper. Shame on me! Just proves that art isn’t relegated to the Arts section. Image (c) Richard Chapman, Bole, Ross Creek Cedars, Western Montana.)

A recent article in The New York Times discussed a symposium at the University of Michigan that tackled the evolutionary value of art. While artists (you?) might like to think of themselves as lone geniuses shut away in their studios, one of the presenters reminds us that art brings  people together. Here are a couple of notable quotes from columnist Natalie Angier, who is relating the findings of presenter Ellen Dissanayake:

  • "The making of art consumes enormous amounts of time and resources, she observed, an extravagance you wouldn’t expect of an evolutionary afterthought. Art also gives us pleasure, she said, and activities that feel good tend to be those that evolution deems too important to leave to chance."
  • "Through singing, dancing, painting, telling fables of neurotic mobsters who visit psychiatrists, and otherwise engaging in what Ms. Dissanayake calls “artifying,” people can be quickly and ebulliently drawn together, and even strangers persuaded to treat one another as kin. Through the harmonic magic of art, the relative weakness of the individual can be traded up for the strength of the hive, cohered into a social unit ready to take on the world."

What do you think? What role does art have in bringing people together? And do you see that as part of the goal of your art? If not, why not?

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6 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Art in the evolutionary process”

  1. I DO think art brings people together, if only artist as a way to find support in what feels like a “loner” career. As an artists I’ve found a whole community of people I can share ideas, whines, whims, new techniques and just plain fun with around art (just this weekend I was at a pj party for about 8 creative types…all old enough to be young again). Additionally, I started blogging as a way to find out who’s “out there” and found a whole ‘nother community of folks who I simply couldn’t do without. None of this would have happened were I not an artist making art. As for community, I think that is the role of public art. I did a 7.5′ x 11’ ceramic architectural piece for North Beach, MD and find that the community loves that piece. I am still (two years after installation) meeting people who tell me that piece is a part of their every day walk along the boardwalk and how they love to touch it and sometimes just sit and look at it. I guess that makes a resounding “YES!” from me.

  2. When discussing a piece of artwork, I find that how a person interprets a piece reveals something important about their life and personality. One looks at something digging for a common denominator within. When hearing how someone interprets a piece, I think that they are revealing more personal information than they are aware of. Or maybe they are aware of this, and share anyway. I would not say that part of the goal of my art is to bring people together. All art brings people together.

  3. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Shannon: I think it’s interesting to stop and notice how all art brings people together and then become more aware of this role as it pertains to your art. Tammy: Surely you don’t whine. 🙂 Seriously, your community sounds marvelous. What a great job you have done cultivating it.

  4. The act of making art, or the artwork itself , does not bring people together. It’s the SHARING of the art, the process, whatever–that brings people together. If you lock yourself in the studio, don’t show or share your work, don’t promote your work (and yourself)–how can it bring people together? It has to get out there. And, thanks to people like Alyson–more of us are learning how to do that. Christine

  5. For me it’s two-fold: I love the creative process; it fuels me. I’m irritable when I don’t paint, and am much happier and more pleasant to be around when I do. However, if all my works only sat in my basement, I wouldn’t be satisfied. The second part to the equation is to connect with others. They don’t have to see the same that I intended in the works and catch the same meaning, but I’m looking to invoke a response. Conversation. Discourse. Chatter. One of the many reasons that I, too, started my blog. Yes, I create to get my voice heard. (Though only just starting to hone in on what I want to say!) But along the lines of “If a tree fell in a forest with no one around would it still make a sound?”, there’s got to be someone on the other end.

  6. Apparently “Art” has not the same value for everybody. I have always been sourrounded by art even when I was not calling myself an artist yet but I have always felt a bond between all the people who do and enjoy art. A couple of weeks ago I received a comment on my blog telling me that “Art is a waste of time and resources. Art drives people crazy. Artists are usually not wrapped very tight and leave most of society shaking their heads in disbelief. It has been said (I actually just said it) that “art is in the eye of the beholder”. Yeah, yeah, I know…..the old saying is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I’m not referring to that old saying. Art is crap. Space occupied by most museums would be better used as a Wal Mart or a trailer park. You might at least see a little action there. Additionally, and in closing, I don’t see you displaying much talent. Get a real job or at least apply for disability.” . While my first reaction was laughing loud in disbelief – my second thought was, after dismissing the idea that this person just wanted to provoke, that this person missed something truely wonderful in his/her? life: simply spending time with something that has absolutely nothing to do with every day’s tasks, to spend some time on something that is utterly not “useful”, not “practical” nor “necessary” as a basic requirement in order to survive. This person reacts like a child that never plays! Can you imagine a world such as this?

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