On my first trip to New York City in 2008, I made a stop with an art class at MOMA – the Museum of Modern Art. While there, I saw Number 1A, 1948 by Jackson Pollock. It is a massive canvass coming in at 68″ x 8′ 8″ (or 172.7 x 264.2 cm for my metric followers), done in oil and enamel. Standing in front of this abstract behemoth, I found myself feeling uncharacteristically giddy. My friend and I stood in front of this piece for the better part of ten minutes, trying to figure out what it was about Number 1A that was making us so happy. To this day, I have no idea what it is about this particular painting, but I know that just looking at it gives me an intense feeling of joy.
Recently, Pollock’s No. 5, 1948 was sold for $140 million, the second most valuable painting to have been sold at auction ever. This painting, which is oil on fiberboard and stands at 8’x4′ (2.4m x 1.2m), looks like this:
Now, when I was a little girl, I was routinely informed that I was not a real artist because most of my work was abstract. I could draw people, too, and scenery, but my favourite style was abstract. I’m not saying I just threw paint around and called it art: my strokes and colour choices were deliberate and precise, and for me portrayed feelings I was unable to express any other way. I never seriously pursued art, though, because after being told I wasn’t a real artist, there didn’t seem any point to trying to improve. This is a reoccurring problem for me. Fast forward to last week when I was browsing imgur (for inspiration, of course) and came across this comic (so I guess that means it worked?). It hit home in a lot of ways, and made me really look at how we as people interact with our children, and with those who wish to call themselves artists.
Art is very subjective, and while I don’t want to say everything is art – I’m certainly not a professional art critic by any stretch – I would like to suggest that it’s important to encourage people who show creative tendencies, for a lot of reasons. At the very least because art is a wonderful form of self expression and can help with all sorts of mental problems, and at the very greatest because an appreciation of art tends to mean an understanding of the more abstract, and the more emotional parts of the human experience.
Without getting into the politics of art, simply the creation and admiration of art is a great part of humanity. Even if we don’t understand it, being able to recognize it and feel something from it is pretty amazing. The question of how can seemingly random splashes of paint on a piece of canvass can make a person happy for ten minutes for no reason is interesting – but not nearly as interesting as the fact that it can. The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, is a cliche for a reason, but I’d like to take it a step further. A picture is not worth the words it brings to mind, but the emotions that they make us experience. The greatest art is often that which removes from us the ability to think coherently, and just feel. Great art is magic, and any art – be it a macaroni portrait or a $140 million piece of fiberboard – should be valued, at the very least as “real”.