Monday, March 14, 2016

Who Cares About Art?

 Bruges Madonna and Child, Michelangelo,
 It has taken six decades for me to understand the importance of art for a people, a culture, a civilization.

This quote from the movie, The Monuments Men, summarizes my thoughts succinctly. Frank Stokes, the leader of the group of men sent near the end of WW2 to save works of art stolen by the Nazis and stored in Hitler's hidden treasure troves, explains to the close-knit group his perspective on their mission.

"All right, listen up fellas because I think you should know the truth as I see it. This mission was never designed to succeed. If they were honest, they would tell us that. They'd tell us that with this many people dying, who cares about art. They're wrong. Because that's exactly what we're fighting for, for our culture and for our way of life. You can wipe out a generation of people, you can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they'll still come back. But, if you destroy their achievements, and their history, then, it's like they never existed. Just...ash floating. That's what Hitler wants. And it's the one thing we simply can't allow."

Art matters. Too few of us alive today seem to understand this truth.

Ghent Altarpiece, Jan van Eyck, 1430 
An Art History course I'm currently enrolled in through the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City teaches me how to see history through works of fine art. Information is gleaned from more than what is overtly depicted in the art; it's in the style, the reasons behind the style, the perspectives and perceptions of the artists, how they came to have their views, and why the strong desire to express those attitudes and convictions. Our cultural timeline, our achievements, our failures, dreams, rebellion, foolishness, nobility, wisdom, and spirit are preserved in fine art.

Art is more than beautiful or interesting pictures, architecture, and sculptures. Art is a language of history, of culture, of mistakes made, of wisdom gleaned, and of warnings. Art is messages from the past which, when correctly understood, serve us today and will continue to in the future. Art inspires, disturbs, informs, challenges, soothes, and perplexes. It tells who and where we've been, and what we currently are. Art records everything!

How exciting to discover a new-to-me language, one which broadens understanding of the historical timeline, while encouraging the heart!


Tom Klusman said...

I agree completely, this is a wonderful post.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Tom. I'll always love viewing and discussing art with you!