A few months ago I got the chance to visit my son in Hawaii. While I was there he introduced me to the work of photographer Peter Lik and we had the opportunity to visit his studio in Waikiki. His studio is filled with magnificent photographs that capture the spontaneity of nature, vibrancy of colors, serenity of the different phases and lighting of the day and the fluidity of water.
He has this awesome ability to find the emotion hidden within the world around us. Without a doubt, I’m a fan.
I was lost in the image of the crystalline wave with the sun peaking through. The sense of flowing gently with the water but knowing you can crash with the slightest off-balance. I relished the warm tropic sun and cool mist. It was a view that was generally reserved for skilled surfers bold enough to brave the ocean water.
It was a view that most of us will never get to see with our own eyes.
When a staffer at the studio asked me which photo was my favorite, without a bit of hesitation, I knew it was that one.
Although undoubtedly beautiful, the staff member disagreed. He just didn’t understand how I would choose a “simple” picture of a wave over his favorite: a photo of contrasting grey trees over a red background.
I just smiled and let him know, while lovely, the tree photo was not the one for me. To him, my favorite was “just water” and to me his favorite was serene landscape.
But that’s the eternal argument when it comes to art, isn’t it? What is and is not art? What is and is not “good” art? And maybe equally as important: Who gets to decide?
So, what is art?
Why not start off with the formal definition of art. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
:something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings
But anyone who considers themselves an artist or has a true appreciation of art, knows the definition goes deeper than that. To me, art is a living and breathing thing within me. It is the reflection of my world that I want to share: to inspire, encourage, challenge, anger, discern, enjoy, live, love, to, to…
Art is… creamy crests of silky waves
Steam sizzling off your crescent moon
Smooth sensations of gliding silver
It is the feeling of something so ordinary yet sensual as shaving a man smooth yet at the same time something as extraordinary as flying in space.
As an artist, I want to share my stories — my history as it was, as it is and how I want it to be. The euphoria of winning, the challenges of defeat, the acts of kindness, the ache of loss, the sensuality of touch.
So yes, Art is “something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings” but art is also everything else we know and experience. Art is all of that, simultaneously simple and complex. Our parallel truths.
Art is visceral
Everyone I met the day we visited in Peter Lik’s studio had a different viewpoint, a favorite picture, and reaction to the various pieces. But none of that pulled me away from the one I liked most.
That is the greatest element to art.
It causes strong reactions to our most visceral emotions and thought processes. And while I get to d
ecide what is and is not art here, you get that same autonomy in your life and in the worlds you create.
It is you who decides how a work of art enriches your life regardless of the creator, the medium, and others opinions.
And while we’re on the subject art doesn’t even have to be what we expect in a traditional sense. It can be found inside the way small businesses and massive corporations are run, inside educational systems that dictate how lessons are to be taught and in how a mother loves her child.
All of it is art if we choose to see the art in it.
And that’s what I want to celebrate as an artist. Whether it’s the memory of a favorite birthday, the collection of goals met, the discussion of social ills and triumphs.
Or maybe it’s something more simple and obvious like color combination or patterns. I want it to trigger those thoughts giving you the breakthrough to solve that nagging problem.
And as I work, I want to create something beautiful.
What do you love about art?
Let me know in the comments below.