December 13, 2004

Celebrate the new year with the wisdom of the ages

Filed under: Art and About Holidays — admin @ 4:03 pm

The New Year is around the corner and I have many resolutions, including one that I have renewed every January 1 for the last 14 years — to live a more artful life. It’s the sentiment that informs this column, and every now and again I run into a great quote from someone far more artsy than I am underscoring the same ideal. I envy their succinctness because it takes me 600 words every two weeks to say in Art and About what they say in one sentence. But, as Charles Bukowski wrote in “Notes of a Dirty Old Man,” “An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.”

My New Year’s wish for all of you is that you will embrace and nurture the artist within yourself, if you haven’t already. But you don’t have to listen to me. Here’s what the heavy hitters have to say.

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance . . . and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” – Henry James

“Do not imagine that Art is something which is designed to give gentle uplift and self-confidence. Art is not a brassiere. At least, not in the English sense. But do not forget that brassiere is the French word for life-jacket.” – Julian Barnes

“Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement; art is great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling. In our age the common religious perception of men is the consciousness of the brotherhood of man-we know that the well-being of man lies in the union with his fellow men. True science should indicate the various methods of applying this consciousness to life. Art should transform this perception into feeling. The task of art is enormous. Through the influence of real art, aided by science, guided by religion, that peaceful co-operation of man is now obtained by external means-by law courts, police, charitable institutions, factory inspection, etc.-should be obtained by man’s free and joyous activity. Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.” – Leo N. Tolstoy
(O.K., so Tolstoy also needed 600 words.)

“Art is the highest task and proper metaphysical activity of this life.” – Nietzsche

“It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.” – Oscar Wilde

“Life is not a support system for art. It is the other way around.” – Stephen King

“The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.” – Wassily Kaninsky

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler

“Art is a way of saying what it means to be alive, and the most salient feature of existence is the unthinkable odds against it. For every way that there is of being here, there are an infinity of ways of not being here. Historical accident snuffs out whole universes with every clock tick. Statistics declare us ridiculous. Thermodynamics prohibits us. Life, by any reasonable measure, is impossible, and my life—this, here, now—infinitely more so. Art is a way of saying, in the face of all that impossibility, just how worth celebrating it is to be able to say anything at all.” – Richard Powers

“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse

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