What’s the difference between art and culture? Interesting to me because Suzhou has a LOT of these cultural monuments/statues all around the city. Some of them are obviously a depiction of ancient Chinese life but others like Don Quixote & Sancho have absolutely nothing to do with Chinese culture. But they are fun to climb on!
It sparked my interest the other day while on my way to work thinking of who made the decision to put this here…hmmm. Why did it make sense to use this piece of public land for this reason? Then I thought, why not?
Must art have a reason to represent a part of the culture? Or is it just a spark of imagination that cannot be judged? Just the expression of someone’s thought. To be respected.
Further lead my thinking to what made Langston Hughes write poetry? What made Picasso & Salvador Dali paint portraits? What made Mahalia Jackson sing? Not sure…. but I’m glad they had the tenacity to create.
These expressions told a great amount about the times in which they lived and more important than financial success, they told a story. This story defines who we are/were at that moment in time. Think of Picasso’s Battle of Guernicapainting or Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Edwin Starr’s War? These definitive works of art are just like the monuments I see on the street. Without an inch of personal edification for the artist, they promote culture, class & self-awareness to the community. How else would we be able to accurately remember history? Sure, we have writing, movies and now the internet to research but I would argue that art is just as substantive.
Salvador Dali is one of my favorite artists of all times. His surreal paintings are up to you to decipher. Not like an article or story that tells you what to think, I appreciate his art because it’s meaning is up to your imagination. That means two people can look at the exact same piece of work and develop two completely different meanings. Seems it has so much to do with our personal experience as human beings. Think of the differences in males and females. We can look at or hear the exact same fact pattern and have a different thought about it.
When pressed to explain them (imagery of horse & bull) in Guernica, Picasso said, “this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse…. If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are.” -Wikipedia
It makes me stray from using “definite history” as the only source of information. Like the history books I learned from in grammar school. I mean, they are great at teaching the basics but aren’t they just one person’s or company’s rendition of the story. There are so many untold stories about the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Slavery, etc that I would never learn from a book. But I can remember as a teenager my dad taking me to visit the Henrietta Marie slave ship that had been uncovered by a group of scuba divers and thinking to myself, wow, I never learned that in school! But from this piece of art I understood the story a little better. In addition, I was left with a piece of information that could apply directly to my life.
So this is what I’ve tried to do as I pass these “abstract” pieces of work everyday. Try to make sense of them and define them as they relate to me. Now, I must give a disclaimer, I appreciate art to the fullest but have very little artistic ability myself…. meaning without a few drinks, I can’t sing, dance and will probably never be able to draw, but this doesn’t mean I’m not an artist. Doesn’t mean any of us aren’t artists in our own way. I think it is up to us to find our artistic ability and tell the story around us. Define it for ourselves. If we don’t, the story will be left to the history books to define culture & I tend to think we have a little more control over history than that.
Thus, I challenge us all to find that artist within and create something! I heard it once said that if you are feeling creative, create something….