a “brief” response to josh…

“I also agree, mr. shawn. True creativity begins with the desire to express oneself with authenticity.

I will, though, take this one step further. I posit that creativity finds its true purity when applied towards the betterment of others. This is not to say we as artists should ‘bend’ our work so others will like it more.

Our creativity must be funded by Christ and all He stood for: sacrifice, truth, selflessness. In the last while, I have come to firmly believe that when creativity is unleashed out of love, for the betterment of others, its power is unmatched.

what sayest thou, old friend? – Josh”

I totally agree. In fact pretty much everything in life, not just art, is better when informed by love and a desire for the betterment of others.

However, as with everything, there is danger attached to virtue. In all of our endeavors we need to maintain a stance of humility, otherwise the virtue of our love and the nobility of our desires for others will become an a crusade built upon ignorance that is blind and deaf to what people really need. We need humility and sensitivity so that we don’t end up in the all-to-common position of determining people’s needs for them.

This is the downfall of many overseas missions. A passionate person/group of people will find their hearts full of love for a culture and, out of their desire for that culture’s betterment, will decide what their biggest need is. Two years later they have made no difference (or even made things worse by creating a culture of dependence) and are bitter and burned out. What started out “pure” was tainted by assumption and misguided passion.

As an aside, here is a missionary who is working hard to avoid that trap by earnestly seeking, with the people of Haiti, to identify their most pressing needs and to tackle them in a way that will lead to sustainable change, not just temporary relief (or unhealthy dependence).

When it comes to the artist, the consequences aren’t usually as severe, but they are there. The artist who, out of a heart of love, seeks to use their art for the betterment of others may (notice I said may and not will) end up assuming needs and assuming that they are capable of addressing those needs in their art. The result will generally be bad art and a discouraged artist.

Art, at its core, is collaborative. Usually when we think about artistic collaboration we think of artists combining their skills to create something together. However, I think that there is a oft forgotten level of collaboration that exists between artist and audience. I believe that art is at its best and most effective when the artist who creates leaves room for the audience to add their own creative stroke to the piece through interpretation. How many times have we heard a song or looked into a painting and found a truth that has changed the way that we view life, only to find out that that truth that we found wasn’t even imagined by the artist who created the piece initially. That is collaboration. And it is that kind of collaboration that leaves the deepest marks on your soul.

I think this is what makes so much Christian art “bad”. The artist, out of a desire to honor God and make a difference in peoples lives, will make art that is preachy and one dimensional. In other words, they leave no room for collaboration. The art can only mean what the artist intended for it to mean. As an audience we are uninvited into the creative process and dialogue. Instead, we are told to sit and listen and either affirm or deny what the artist is saying. “Yup, that’s true”, or “nope, I don’t agree”. End of discussion.

Sometimes the most loving thing we can do as artists is to humbly and truthfully say “All I really know is that which I have experienced. And all I really see is that which I see through my own eyes”, and to tell your own stories (even if they aren’t your own). And sometimes the most loving gift that we can give is art created with room for the audience to find their stories in.

In my mind, that is how “creativity is unleashed out of love, for the betterment of others”… but that’s just me.
the 1st picture is of a sculpture called “dialogue” by Doc Ross
the 2nd picture is of a
crazy piece of art by Daniel Rozin that looks like a basket weave but acts as a “mirror”


3 Comments Add yours

  1. kate says:

    /And sometimes the most loving gift that we can give is art created with room for the audience to find their stories in.//you are awesome, shawn. this is a little off point, but i definitely think that as far as music goes the piece isn't complete until the audience reacts to it. therefore i agree with you that it is a collaboration. (but because i am not as nice as you -and i think i've said to you before – if i were an artist i might find it a shame that i can't choose who listens or *how* the audience interprets music.) and i'll have to think harder about other types of art to see if this holds. almost another subject: do you think being an audience memeber/listener/art appreciator is a creative act? does finding your story in art make you a creative person? what's your take? (if the theory is that the enjoy-er of the art is part of the collaboration, then i suppose yes, right? but as a person who is only an enthusiast and doesn't create on her own, i can tell you that i wouldn't call myself particularly creative. heh.)

  2. I think creativity goes far far beyond carrying an ability to express yourself via art. Typically, art and creativity are perceived as individual, but there are a lot of artists who aren't creative (cough cough nickelback cough cough). There are many more people who are creative without necessarily being artistic.So, Kate, to weigh in on your question, I'd say that it takes a decidedly creative mind to be able to identify with the art one encounters. Superimposing your own story over that depicted in the painting or novel or song takes a creative mind – in my opinion.

  3. kate says:

    So! Dan Wilson (formerly of Semisonic) writes a blog and posts the entires to my local paper and kinda-sorta wrote something relevant about this recently. Here's a link: http://danwilsonblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/its-hustle-and-game-and-gift.html

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