What is Art?

Recently I had the chance to visit the Louvre in Paris. It was one of the only things I wanted to see in Paris. Granted, I did see a bunch of other things, but the Louvre was the thing I wanted to see the most. If you ever get the chance, I highly suggest it.

As we wandered the halls, I thought about the artists who created the masterpieces hanging on the wall. Some of them were never really appreciated during their lifetimes. A few of them made a good living. A few even managed to amass quite a fortune. Some died young. Some lived well into their old age. Many had multiple spouses. Some died alone. Every one of them was unique in some way but shared one common thread. They are all artists.

Panini 1

It is a dirty little secret that authors are largely overlooked as ‘artists’. I can’t blame people, I understand why. What we make, in the artistic sense, is written material. People see writing as mechanical. Ensuring proper grammar is used, proper punctuation, proper paragraphs … etc. People feel we have more in common with an auto mechanic than we do with an impressionist painter. It’s not necessarily their fault. For years, our schools have been teaching children that writing is more an exercise in following the rules dictated by the left brain, than anything borne from the more creative right brain.

As I wandered the collection of the Louvre, I came across two paintings by Giovanni Paolo Panini. They were painted in Rome. The paintings were of an art gallery in which the walls are filled with scenes of Rome. Last December we were in Rome so we were fascinated by the scenes. We knew a lot of the places in the paintings of paintings. I became instantly fascinated by these two works of art. Out of all the paintings there, I spent more time looking at these than any others.

Stephen King wrote in, On Writing, that essentially writing is telepathy. It is the ability to take an object and convey its meaning across time and space. I think that is essentially true of all great works of art. When we read something like Stephen Kings’, Carrie, or Richard Adams’, Watership Down, are taking in what the artists were thinking about at the very moment they were typing out their words on a keyboard. You, by reading this blog, are actually reading my thoughts at this moment in time. It may interest you to know that the date is May 9, 0730 am. I am sitting in a tiny living room of a small apartment in Paris, France; near the Orsay Museum. I am drinking a cappuccino.

For this moment, you and I are connected. Across time and space. You could be reading this at work while you are supposed to be doing something else. You could be reading this on a train, on your way to or from work. Maybe you are reading this while feeding a baby or petting a cat. You could be reading this at any moment after May 9, 2016, at 730am. Maybe you are reading this in the year 2167 and I am long since dead. Pretty cool really. At this moment, I am affixed in time. And you could be virtually anywhere.

Panini 2

Panini and I have little in common. He was a painter and I’m a writer. He lived a long time in the past, relative to me. But, the other day, sitting in the Louvre, we talked for a bit. He conveyed the beauty of Rome to me and I recognized the places he was telling me about. Pretty cool when you think about it.


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