I met Jan Raven a few years ago at a taiko workshop. She lives in Minnesota, but, for all the complaints people may have about Facebook, it’s cool in this sort of situation to be able to keep up with someone interesting that you’d probably otherwise lose track of. One of her many awesomenesses is being an amazing jewelry artist. It’s very cool to be able to see her latest creations. Almost makes me wish I was a jewelry wearer!
Jan sells her work at art shows, and sometimes mentions works by other artists at the shows, which is fun. Here was a find at a recent show:
Which elicited the following comment:
Wow! Will you actually use it, do you think?
(I’m guessing they meant use as a rolling pin.)
Jan’s (brilliant!) response was:
It is ART, made from a rolling pin, so yes, I will be using it every day as a piece of art.
Which is such a wonderful, obvious thing once someone says it. We have this hang up (the Puritan thing?) that things have to be “useful”, whatever the heck that means – I guess that you can DO something with it, like a tool, that it will produce something. Anyway. I sometimes see the phrase “functional art”, which of course always makes me wonder what about the dysfunctional art. But I digress.
It made me realize that the useful thing is another way that art gets marginalized. That somehow it’s not worth doing, or not worth paying for since it doesn’t have a Use. People will pay $3-$5 a day for their coffee drinks – which aren’t necessarily useful – but $40 for a handmade print is too expensive. Really? And don’t get me started on the disposable plastic crap. I’m kinda digressing again, trying to figure out what I’m really trying to say here I think.
Something like this… Maybe we need to expand the definition of useful, or how we think of use and utility – that it also includes some sense of purpose. Art doesn’t just sit there and do nothing. It may not be a tool to produce something else in the traditional physical sense, but it can cut like a knife. It can be the seed for another creation. It can be beautiful, or thought provoking, make me question things, remind me of a place or a person, so many things.
If you’re still not sure about the usefulness of art, try to imagine a world without any.
USE YOUR ART TODAY.
You and Jan have hit it on the head here. We use art all the time–we use it to set the mood, lift our spirits, help guide us into deeper, darker places and come out in one piece. Sometimes we use our art to make us happy. Which would make using art a most very American pursuit. We think with all the other things we do that we’re pursuing happiness, but the path to happiness by using art is a lot clearer. The toughest thing about it is that we get no receipt for happiness. Without a receipt that guarantees (and thus enables) satisfaction, we feel maybe we didn’t get anything at all…but hmmm. We did. We just got a little happier using that art. I think I’m going to start including receipts when people get my books that include, maybe not a guarantee of happiness and satisfaction, but maybe a permission slip to use the art to be happy. It’s not a receipt for a book, it’s a receipt for happiness, or thoughtfulness, or whatever. Here–you bought this art, and here’s your receipt for what you’re actually getting. Care to design a receipt like that for artists everywhere, I bet some of us will buy that, too!
Nice idea! Although I’m guessing that folks that buy your books already have a good idea of how to use art 🙂
I haven’t asked all eight of them yet. But when I have, I will present my findings.