Why Art Thou?

This essay is as close to a "manifesto" as Art Ranger has gotten. An earlier version is archived at www.thisibelieve.org.

I believe that Art is a kind of sustenance, not a luxury or a decoration. I believe in art’s nimble purpose in life and this is how:

I believe that art sends oxygen to the brain the way running up a hill or laughter can.

This might help energize the possibilities, provide insights. Connect the dots. Stir the soul.

Why is this a good and necessary thing for people and cultures of the world?

Why teach art? Why preach it? Why beseech that it be part of our education, our civic and private lives? Art can be as humble as a collection of moments noticed – on purpose - moments possibly made richer by a visual encounter, a certain snag of wonderment and attentiveness. Art is a practice like making bread. A discipline that requires unpacking the meaning of things. Letting the dough sit and rise. Exposing, stretching, and rearranging the necessary bits of soul. Artists must do this stirring job because nobody else will.

The fact that art usually has an afterlife and becomes some object or surface that stands still long enough to study, has made it extremely valuable as a body of core knowledge and skill. To look at the outputs of various moments and peoples in the history of civilization, and to keep on looking and looking at it, can make me dizzy with amazement and admiration. If the time is taken, it is to decompress layers of historical consciousness and overlapping life stories. Whether a Leonardo, or a YouTube entry, art still holds valuable deposits of the time period. Art is only a "masterpiece" by accumulation of appreciation. This may not occur exactly in an Art establishment because it is not just finished objects or framed things. Art is process. The right amount of spice in the soup.

To appreciate Art, is to consider Context, the back stories. Artists can be live sponges, filter feeders that digest context into a discernable object. Art provides, like no other discipline quite can, access to another person’s Point of View - the place where they are coming from, the shoes they fell into. And the receiver must stretch to think outside of self or machine.

(The Gleaners, Jean Millet)

I believe that training in art can be applied to a great variety of activities just by teaching us to look longer and wider and deeper and to acknowledge several ways of looking. This could help you design a bridge or invent a new shoe sole, or enable you to fix the doorknob without going to the hardware store. You may solve a problem by understanding its opposite, by acknowledging positive and negative space.

Art could help you hold the line some day or to see what another person means. They say that people who lead have vision.

To reflect on something slows it down slightly. To acknowledge fully the reflection of light off an apple is to be able to draw it. To draw is to see. And to be able to draw from.

Our human natures crave a combination of routine and unique moments. The desire to see something new makes brain synapses. When striving to create art, people become even more elastic and fantastic, because art might contain a micro-inspiration that can translate into action.

The term cutting edge – is actually sharp, effective. Telling.

I believe that Art is a potent messenger of emotional material often where words fail: the world could use more of that right now and always.

Yet why oh why is it probable and possible for so many humans to do perfectly well without art? And why is it that in America, we love Art after it has already made some place a nicer place, but we don’t often nurture it or make a place for it in our civic life? Well, it can be very inconvenient to be creative in our culture - so mass-produced and media-induced, all cellular and digital-like in caffeinated cubicles are we. But creativity is the last frontier of the brain folks. CREATIVITY. Everything else really is being done by machines, right under your feet!

Art is vital for random human pedestrians and culture seekers alike. It's a form of good nutrition and circulatory system for a community. It helps people to air and freshen their brains and mitigate the tedium of daily living, the long haul. Go on a walk for lunch. Art helps humans acknowledge their environs and emotional truths, thereby encouraging their stewardship.

Why do I continue to bother to make art? And why do I see it as performing a service. Having a mission. Art is the seat of my brain. The place where my eggs hatch. Simply what my being is best suited for. For others, it is a learned love. I see my job as a collector and connector of information, a transmitter from and to the surround. I am an employee of the spirit of focused wonderment.

Skills needed for our species to thrive and survive and perspire over ideas.

After many years in the field, what is at the heart of my art, what really gets the ball rolling, is to be moved by what’s already there - by seeing some odd thing in the world and registering it deeply. The dusty deer trophy at the gas station was wearing sunglasses. Or the silhouettes of twenty three homemade mailboxes all standing together. Both seen in nature and as the result of culture, there are images that blow my socks off with their complete complex beauty. It feels impossible for me to make anything as great as these images and yet these moments still inspire.

Recently I’ve witnessed a collection of revelatory moments during regular life that have provided the clues I need to carry on, and sometimes even make a living from my art.Example: one warm afternoon, I watched my dog resettle herself into a nap and looked down at her stomach where I saw the pattern from my rubber doormat left as an impression in her soft flesh. This flash observation helped solve a fabricating dilemma for a metal sculpture commission that had been dogging me for months. By stamping a pattern into thin slabs of oil clay, I was able to save miles of hand labor and have it look even better.

Art can be activated by the sound of frogs, or noting a tree branch following the contour of a hill. Or art may require engineering and cranes. Books and maps. Whether making or receiving art, there’s a tuning in that can be quietly beneficial.

Therefore, this public artist defines her mission in the department of Homeland Inspiration to further the cause of Art and to seek out and eek out its integration into the everyday lives of others.

Whether, a way of living in the world and paying a certain kind of attention to its passing, or whether you decide to leave some evidence of grappling with your time here - Go ahead - pick up a pencil, a camera, a toothpick? And have some art in your life today!