On Art and Artists

Some people think that the purpose of art is to share it with others. This is only partially correct – that is one of the purposes, but not the sole one. The first impulse of art is to capture and preserve the good; that is why people photograph, paint, write, make movies, and so on – and this is not restricted to just art, but to all who use devices to preserve, even if the device is just a pen and paper.

The good must first be captured – it must be recorded. That is why memory alone is insufficient. Second, it must be preserved. That is why seashore sands or slates are not used; there is something immortal that those who glimpse an event want to preserve. They are gathering these fragments to say if not to anyone else but God – “Behold! This matters!”

This all means that the artistic drive is satisfied when something of eternity has been captured. The artist breathes easily knowing the moment has not escaped, and that something more than his fragile memory remains. There is great satisfaction in noticing the clues to beauty that have been scattered across creation, for those who have been made to notice them. When we notice, and then preserve, we are doing what we were born to do – we have seen that likeminded other and his hand in the world and we have recorded it. In that fundamental sense, all artists are evidence and testimony to the master artist. Beauty exists and we were created to notice it. Truth exists and we were made to be able to know it. Love exists and we were made to love and be loved in relationships both temporal and eternal.

The world is a complex and lovely place filled with lifetimes of fleeting beauty. We know that if we lived to be older than Methusala there would still not be enough time to describe it all; that is why John said that the world could not contain the books that would be written of all that his master had said and done.

But we are not called to be prodigous as though industriousness was our chief aim. We are called as artists to know and to make known and in so doing we set our works aloft on divine winds to be seeded as only the master can. He is part of us and as we draw closer to him we become better at noticing and better at doing what we were designed to do. And this produces in us wordless tears of joy and longing for when our joy will be whole.

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