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Meaning of Art vs Meaningful Art


In 2011, I received an email from someone I have never met before. Sandra Fehr began to tell me of her story. Recently her family was in an accident and her son, Mark received severe brain damage. As a mother of two young sons myself, my eyes began to swell up already.


Backing up a little, a few years ago, a church we had attended requested a large painting commission from me. I was to paint the trinity as a triptic. I had a hard time narrowing down who I felt the Father was and who he might be to others and came up with a simple scene of a boy sleeping on the shoulder of the Father. You can't see the face of the Father, but He is illuminated, casting light on the boy.


Sandra attends this church. She told me that the first time she saw the painting after the accident, she found comfort, feeling that Mark was in the arms of Jesus and that he was being taken care of. To her and many others, the boy in the painting looked just like Mark so for Sandra, the painting gave her hope that her son would be okay. Mark is recovering slowly.

And just recently, I received a nice surprise in my inbox that this image of a colt, named "Brave New World", sold through my website. I had never even spoken or met the buyer. After she had emailed me, I learned that her dad was in the hospital and not doing so good. She, her sister, and her mom were deeply stressed, tired, and needed a small break from the hospital so they visited The Granary Restaurant where a lot of my paintings show. They saw this in the foyer and were instantly affected by it. It reminded them of all the great memories growing up in the prairies with their dad/husband and this amazing nostalgic feeling brought the joy and comfort they needed to withstand the heartache they were going through.


Is this the meaning of art or is it simply meaningful art. A little while ago Keith Bond wrote and article called "Advancing Art for Art's Sake" where he paraphrases another article by Rose Fredrick who states that fine art art should advance for art's sake. Fine Art should "further the movement and evolution of art; to leave a lasting impression on society". Furthermore, it should be "honest" and "advance society".


My painting of the "Father" or" Brave New World", may never reach "society" (to which I understand as, a large amount of the world's population), and I have not developed a new style or new technique in my art to which may "advance" society, but if a work of art can affect one person positively, and impact their world, is that enough? Mental health is a major focus in our society today and to advance our society, I believe that if art can positively help one person, then that person can help another and so on. I think this advances society more than producing provocative forms of art that very few connect with or understand.


So to me, meaningful art impacts people's mental state positively in such a way that they can function in society to make a difference for someone else. The meaning of art is then the physical act of creating that art and addresses the reason for making it. So then, the "meaning of art" is the act and "meaningful art" is the result of the act.


So the question to artists is, why do you make art and who will it impact? Does this matter to you? If you can figure this out, then the honesty in your work will shine, even if you're not interested in selling it. Happy creating!

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