What Is the Purpose of Making Art?

An artist explains his thoughts on the function art serves in society

Woman standing in artist's studio, rear view
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Art causes people to look a little closer at social issues, at other people and their emotions, at the environment that surrounds them, and the everyday objects and life forms around them. Art helps them see what is there but not easily perceived. The artist brings out that which cannot be seen or felt easily.

When society has clarity on issues, opportunities for change in thought exist, as well as an appreciation of the message behind the art. Art can cause people to reexamine their thinking on the subject that’s put before them.

A Form of Self-Expression or a Statement?

Art is usually about self-expression because artists have to feel strongly enough about something to try and put it into a form that they, and others, can come to terms with. This product of their self-expression can help others because there will always be people who feel the same way but cannot express it themselves. These people will identify with the artist and draw encouragement, purpose, and excitement about the thing expressed.

One of the functions of the artist is to make a statement of some kind. It may be a simple statement, the beauty of the landscape for example, but it is a statement. In one way or another, artists are trying to communicate an idea, an emotion, or a purpose in their work.

An idea exists that new art can be created about old art. One would think that there are enough ideas in this world to make new statements, without the need to rehash that which has already been communicated in other art pieces. However, I did a painting a couple of years ago that used a statue in a park as a subject. The soldier statue was the true work of art, and I just brought it to everybody’s attention again by painting it. I was making a statement about an existing piece of art. Some painters will do paintings of historical buildings or other architecture pieces that stand out as unique and artistic in design. In this way, the artists are making a statement about art itself.

Art as Decoration or Ornamentation

Unfortunately, most people still think of art as decoration. The problem with thinking that way about a piece of art is that people get tired of the decoration and want to change the décor after a few years. Good art does not go out of style. I like to think of art as a separate entity. It may not match the room. There are lots of cheap prints out there that can be used as decoration and, in a way, yes, it's art, and yes, it's decoration. But the idea that art is decoration undervalues a work.

Art's Contribution to Society

The combined words "arts and culture" have been around for a long time. In many ways what sits in national museums should reflect a society. But from what I understand and have seen in the big galleries, it doesn’t seem to reflect the average person on the street. Some of the art in the museums can actually add to the impoverishment. But, if art builds up the human spirit rather then breaking it down, then it can build up a culture.

We make art because there is something inside the creative person that needs to get out. The poet, musician, actor, and visual artist all have a desire to express what they feel and to create something of great value. It’s a type of therapy or a form of meditation. Many do art for the pure joy of it.