Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Let each man practice the art he knows."

Have I told anyone that I love jazz? Melody Gardot has over the past couple of months become one of my favorite new feel-breezy kinds of music. When I imagine her recording, I think she is sitting in an overstuffed armchair with a glass of wine, a cigarette, legs hanging over the side, and singing as she pleases. A quite relaxing feel.

It is an observation of mine that many would like to think art is something that overflows from a person's soul as naturally as rain falls. And I think this is true. But just because something comes from the soul, does not mean it comes easily. You see, I believe that the soul is as mysterious to it's possessor as it is to outsiders. There are many areas, dark corners, crevices and closets that one may not even dare to venture for fear of things they have a strange inkling are there, but also wish that they are not there if they were. Sometimes what we need is a full length mirror. The kind they put in dressing rooms. With the not-so-pleasant lighting that is not so pleasant because it exposes EVERYTHING from zit scars to love handles.

Unfortunately, while such mirrors are readily available for the body, the ones that are needed for the soul are not as easy to come across. And perhaps some of us are okay with that. "Oh well, guess I'll just have to go with what I see and know about myself. Why go exploring down there for things that will only hurt me and others more."

So what if we were to search for those mirrors? What if we did put on our brave faces and dig deep? Of course we would find what we feared. Wounds. That is what keeps us from exploring the soul. Wounds. If we were to travel down this road, we would have to uncover those hurts that we buried a long time ago. That breakup, that death, that fight, that betrayal, that mistake, that lie, that night. If we were to place our whole selves in front of that mirror, we would find more than we wanted to admit was still there. Leftover pieces we thought we had dealt with that were just lying around in the attics of our souls collecting dust to the point that it just blended in with the floorboards.

So for art to be true, for a creation to be sincere, the artist has to know himself completely to the point that he's not afraid to expose what he's been through and what he's done. Beauty is not in the covering up of things or the addition of new things, but in removing the dirt to reveal the original beauty that God put there. Beauty is in the process of chipping and chiseling and carving and pruning and getting messy.

I believe that the purest definition for art is anything a person does to make life beautiful, understandable or enjoyable for someone else. And your art matters. To truly do this, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit to the past and present in which we find ourselves a part.