What Is The Purpose Of Art And Creativity? Am I An Artist?

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Aberdeen Chair Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Creativity, to create art, is a mysterious and illusive arena to me. I’m amazed how we humans can form thoughts or expressions from our imaginations to create something entirely new. Amazed that through our human experience we have always creatively shaped our visions, thoughts, and emotions into something concrete and real to be seen, heard or experienced by others. Is this the essence of art? Does it exist in all of us?
Is art reserved for the artistic “genius’ or are the visual arts, music, literature or dance an expression possible to all of us? Elizabeth Gilbert in her February 2009 TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius” shares the radical idea that, “instead of the rare person ‘being’ a genius, all of us ‘have’ a genius.” It’s an inspiring talk to remind us that genius is a gift to us, not in us.
What is art really? Possibly some clarity in language and agreement in definition would help. Google’s definition of art in part is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination… producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”… usually manifested in “the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, photography, music, literature, and dance.”

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The Fremont People drawings near Jensen, Utah
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

It is unknown what the Utah native Fremont People, who lived between 500 and 1200, were trying to communicate when they carved these drawings into the rocks. Did they draw these images to be appreciated for its “beauty or emotional power” or for a purpose unknown to our time? What was the purpose of its creation?

So, where do original thoughts or ideas come from? These are the thoughts or ideas that come “out of the blue”. Some artists believe these ideas come from the collective unconscious, some believe they comes from spirit, the Divine, from God, or “a different place.” Whatever the belief, most people who are committed to creating experience inspiration as coming “through them” and feel a responsibility to see or listen and then develop, express or share it. That becomes their purpose. It is a kind of calling to collaborate with their personal genius source whatever their skill level. The agony is always the gap between what we hear and imagine and the expression of it.

Philip Glass, in his new memoir “Words Without Music.” when asked, “Where does music come from” said, “Music is a place. It’s as real as Chicago and New Delhi. And musicians, generally speaking, have … – one foot in that world and another foot in the world of everyday life. And any musician can tell you that that’s true. And it turns out that that does resonate with people. They say yes, place – it’s a place, they understand that.” He also states that the lineage of his music, his art is his lineage between the past and the future.

What is art’s purpose in my life?

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams 

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Lone Tree
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

My journey with art began with silence and became clear through photographs. I was never verbally articulate. I remember being silent and quiet as a child unless I was called upon as the mascot to intervene in my family’s dynamics. As an adult I learned to translate my non-linear thoughts to words. But truly I think predominately in colors, images and metaphor. I always loved art, but I was never trained to draw, play music or write, and so did not think I was an artist. I was taught that if you weren’t born an artistic “genius”, there was no point. I was raised in a working class family and was taught to be a wife, which meant to please and care for others.

In my early 20’s I took a photography class in college and it opened a door that changed my life forever. I was transformed by the experience. Now I could express myself, and not use words. I could communicate my emotions, ideas and love for patterns, people, and eventually nature freely. It was a revolution that altered my life. My love for photography continues to this day. I also learned to love to express myself through writing, painting and music. I love feeling the creative flow when engaged in these things.

Yet, in our culture, it seems if you don’t sell your art, you are not successful. If I haven’t succeeded in the marketplace am I not an artist? It has taken me years to understand that this is not true. If I don’t sell my art, it may be that I’m not willing or good at marketing it. It may be my work is not “good enough.” I don’t know. I am beginning to have some peace in funding my art rather than having it fund me.

Recently I had an experience while on the road that encapsulates all I love about my art. While my husband and I were driving through Texas, I began to be enchanted by the rich red soil, the expansive clouds and the power of the openness of a distant road. I had to stop. I wanted to experience more. We stopped the car, got out and saw and felt the magnificence of that moment. I focused my camera on the scene before me, but the beauty was around and in me before I ever pressed the shutter. It was a viceral experience of awe heightened by my camera and lens.
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Texas Red Road
Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz

Am I an artist? I don’t know. But I accept the challenge of a collaboration between my personal genius and myself. I commit to allowing inspiration to flow into my life. I accept the responsiblity of enhancing my skills and in sharing my art and my love of the arts with those around me. I wish for knowing the continuity of uniting my past, present and future with the lineage of my art, in all its intended grace.

2 thoughts on “What Is The Purpose Of Art And Creativity? Am I An Artist?”

  1. I’m so pleased to have stumbled upon your lovely essays and photographs, Suzanne!

    I love what Rilke says about unknowing: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue…. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

    Keep up your beautiful work. Thank you!

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