It’s easy to make allowances for things we understand. We recognize what we know. And sometimes something resonates with us but we don’t know why. This feeling is an in-between that can be a catalyst to create a bridge for ourselves from what to oh.
Mystery can be kind of scary. When we are living outside of compassion, not understanding something feels like a failure on our part. What can’t I see? Why can’t I see it? What am I doing wrong? Am I stupid? Am I the only one?
In judgment of ourselves, instead of allowing the unknown, we push it away. Fuck that guy – he’s wrong. He’s an asshole. He’s an elitist. He’s crazy. And only when enough authorities vouch for the truth of what he said or sang or wrote do we take the time to listen, and to make it relative to our lives, to our stories of ourselves. The motivation for waiting is usually a need for social acceptance.
But there are those who live on the edge of what is generally accepted. They are driven by exploration of the unknown or by passionate anger toward injustice. It can be because of a combination of their nature and things they have witnessed or experienced, or a feeling that doesn’t let go.
Many who art from the heart take on big subjects in ways that philosophers don’t. They aren’t necessarily interested in explaining the why. They feel something deeply and they want to share in a way that feels beautiful or even ugly. Visionary artists are often misunderstood, and most die before someone comes along to make sense of their work. It’s the nature of illuminating things that are mysterious.
Sometimes, especially when an artist is first starting to make art, we know things without knowing why we know them. We are driven by wanting to make sense of the things that resonate with us. Much of the art at this stage is intuitive.
When a feeling or a subject or a way of expression that resonates with an artist also resonates with a core group of people, there is usually some level of success. Authors and poets call this voice. If the success is large enough, we hoist the artist on our shoulders while we build a pedestal. We ask the artist to look down from his pedestal and explain his work.
What does this mean? What does that mean? We want to know because we want to fulfill our ego’s need to get it right. We want to be able to speak about the work intelligently with our friends and co-workers. We don’t want to feel left out.
But artists who are working from an intuitive level cannot always explain it the way people want it to be explained, nor should we be forced to. In this way, the mystery of the work creates tension between the artist and the audience.
Critics hold loaded questions to the artists’ heads and when they refuse to explain, the mud starts flying. Oh, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s not a real artist. He’s naive. He doesn’t have the answers to life. And we seek ways to shut them out, shut them down, shut them up. We fiercely question the credibility of people who are simply trying to make sense of things themselves. We don’t allow room for insight that isn’t backed up by 200 page essays or replicable experiments. We’re afraid of being wrong because being right is all we have in a society dictated by the drives to achieve quarter-over-quarter growth, political riding leads, and constant scientific advancement.
Artists shouldn’t be put on pedestals; we are not gods. We are advocates of mystery and exploration. We are pioneers. Art cannot hand over the answers to the audience in a gift-wrapped box. Nothing can do that. We each have the ability to find our own answers. The beauty of art is the way it makes us think or the way it creates a desire to more deeply explore that which resonates with us. But because we want answers, and science doesn’t explore the heart and the philosophers don’t hold the same rock star status as they did in Plato’s day, we hand over the job of investigation to artists. And we do so with great expectations.
But expectation kills creativity. Explanation kills mystery and negates the participatory nature of art. Judgment can make an intuitive artist think twice about creating.
Intuitive art can be beautiful even if it’s a little less polished than other art. It can jar the purest insights in people. It can be a way for an artist to work toward the other kind of art.
Some artists die before they get out of the intuitive stage. And what they gave us from that stage was powerful enough to instigate major change. Can you imagine the amazing pieces that we could all be enjoying today if most of the artists who died young had lived beyond their intuitive stage?
Before the explosion of self-publishing and sites like Amazon and Bandcamp and SoundCloud, we used to have way more publishers, editors and producers who took on the challenge of nurturing young or developing artists. Now that job can only fall into the hands of industry mentors and the audience itself.
As the audience, I think we should encourage intuitive art instead of fearing it and dismissing it. I think we should nurture our artists. If we do, we might eventually get those answers we so desperately seek.