Art is not a thing, dad.


Last week I went to a local art store looking for some kneaded erasers. I guess they are never the most practical option, but for some reason I can’t outgrow the habit: they’re just too much fun to use. Anyways, I was walking down the aisle telling myself that nothing else was imperative to take when a conversation started to become distinguishable across the crammed stacks. It was a girl, probably around ten, trying to convince her father to buy a large canvas instead of a considerably smaller one. I stood by listening for a while and in my perspective, the girl’s ability to build a case on how much a larger canvas could make the difference was quite impressive.

It’s always kind of entertaining to witness these situations, you know. Not much after I paused, it seemed like someone had finally won the argument: the larger canvas was the one to be taken. Both were already heading to the cashier when the thrifty dad muttered: ‘Anything so you can get your art thing done, sweetheart.’

Oh no. 

From what I could hear, both had stopped abruptly. A few seconds later, I heard the girl saying in an unexpected condescending tone: ‘Art is never a thing dad, art is what you feel’. And she continued her way towards the check-out line followed by her father, who looked nearly as perplexed as I bet I did.

I suppose the father’s claim was never meant to receive such a blunt and profound answer. But for what it was, this episode reminded me of very fundamental notions about the whole endeavor of art. The first and most important one: art is not a thing but rather an experience. It’s the experience of the artist making the work and of the spectators simultaneously taking it in. It’s the period of time when the transformative process of feeling, imagining and envisioning happens. It extends our senses and mind inwards and not only against an object. And above all, it is not removed from us but it’s something that we can encounter everywhere at any time.

Nowadays, immediacy seems to be the most common standard for encountering art. We are constantly told and it actually seems like there is no longer time for internalizing anything. Not even at a level one of appreciation. But I believe that the most beautiful quality of art, that very transformative aspect, only surfaces when you give it the right amount of time. I would bet all my money on the assumption that those who think that art is not something they can relate to just haven’t spend enough time to truly experience it. I would even stress it by saying that any sort of expression is approachable in this manner and therefore can categorically belong to the fields of art, but that my friends is another story.   I enjoy how much you can get from a trip to the store. I’ll be sharing with you these personal insights so hopefully you may enrich your vision on the experience of art, which I believe is never set far way from anyone. Remember, the experience might be the way you choose your outfit in the morning, or the car you prefer to drive, or the food you buy at your favorite restaurant. Art is not held in a museum underneath highly secured objects. Art is your life, day to day.

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