My Big Question

I am working on something new today. It’s a writing project that I have been planning for a few weeks, but today I am trying to dive into it head first. I wanted to post about it here, partly to get my motor running, but also because I’d love to know what people think about the question that I am exploring:

Why do we care?

From Grounded: Untitled No. 0077 -- Kerry Mansfield

More specifically, why do we care about art?

I have always been a lover of art of all kinds – visual, performance, music, etc – and I can usually find and understand some value in any piece that I see, even ones that I do not particularly like or enjoy. I guess that means I have a sort of empathy when it comes to art. An empathy with the artist, perhaps, and his or her feelings about the art that is being created. I’m not sure if that’s it, but it is a start to how I’m feeling.

But what I’m not sure how to explain is why art touches me in the way it does, why it is able to affect so many different people in a variety of ways, evoking emotional, intellectual, and physical responses, and how. Is it a function of the artist taking something that matters to him or her and capturing it in such a way that displays their personal passion for the subject? Does seeing someone else’s passion make us care? Is it because “art” has some sort of magic property that has been acquired from social constructs? Why are we able to relate to art and why does it elicit such strong and uniquely human reactions?

From Lust: Erin -- Heather Musto

I began my exploration by visiting the local Jennifer Schwartz gallery (which I highly recommend if you happen to be passing though Atlanta). There I saw two exhibitions: Grounded and Lust. I spent a very long time looking at the images, taking the time to really study them, but also to step back and enjoy. I left excited to write up a review of the exhibitions and the gallery, and I am beginning to see how to approach my Big Question, but this is definitely going to be a case of needing to “write my way in” to decide how best to answer it. Hence the blog post.

From Lust: Pomegranate Seeds -- Wynn Myers

And this is where I’d love some help from the world-at-large! Oh lovely readers, what are your thoughts? Tell me, please:

Why do you care?

Comment below if you have a little something to say. Share with people you know and encourage them to comment as well — the more voices, the merrier. Let the conversation commence!


  1. It all starts with passion, but you’re right that empathy plays a huge part as well. Art without passion is like pretty much anything else without passion; it’s workmanlike, sure, but one look tells you it’s missing something. It’s a bit like the difference between a home-cooked meal and McDonalds: you’ll get calories one way or another, but it’s not like any particular love went into a Big Mac, and you can taste the difference. Likewise, art created without passion on the artist’s part isn’t going to stir any particular passion in the person viewing it. Sure, it might be perfectly competent from a technical viewpoint, but both artist and audience will only be going through the motions; neither one’s really engaging the work.

    Which brings us to empathy. I think that when the artist brings empathy to the process — deeply sees, and seeks to understand, the medium, the subject, and the people who will ultimately be subjected to the end result — the work “works” on a whole ‘nother level. And while I don’t have empirical proof right at my fingertips, I suspect that people pick up on that degree of engagement; as an audience, we know, or at least intuit, the artist’s full involvement in what they’re doing. In some sense, artist and audience meet each other halfway, briefly inhabiting the same space even across time and space.

    But that’s just my $.02 worth. :) Curious to see where your explorations lead you!

  2. I think those are great thoughts, and I agree, especially about the idea of meeting halfway. Thanks for reading and commenting and I hope you return to see the final piece!


  3. thank you for referencing my work. i’m delighted to know that the show spoke to you.

    • Of course! It was a great show and I am enjoying writing about it. I hope I get to see more of your work in the future. Thanks so much for visiting!

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