Art Is A Universal Spirituality
There is no difference between prayer and art.
How do I incorporate my faith into my work? I think that being an artist is one of the highest forms of spirituality you can do, because you are being of service to people, you are being creative, expressing creativity, you are providing entertainment, you’re trying to get people to think and feel deeply on a soul level. – Rian Wilson
Have you wondered what motivates the greats, masters, contemporaries, expressionists, cubists, sculptors, mixed-media artists — what pushes them to push themselves? What do they see that the rest of us don’t? What do they wish to see that we haven’t thought of?
Great thinkers, philosophers and social scientists have searched the depths of human relationship to find the invisible sinew and tendons that tie the individual to society at large. Is there some unseen connection to others, to the world around us?
We don’t all agree that there is such a thing as a soul. Many believe in the powers of realms beyond what can be observed — and just as many hold that belief in the un-evidenced is simply wishing — a waste of human energy and potential.
The nature of existence and consciousness are far from being scientifically explained. But, we can generally say that there seems to be some “otherness” about humanity that elevates our experience beyond that of our animal counterparts.
Some call it the pinnacle of evolution, some call it spirituality, others identify it simply as “soul”. For the purposes of this discussion, and not in any way meaning to exert a dominant perspective on you, the reader, we will call it “lift.”
The Lift Equation
Bernoulli’s lift equation first helped us understand the four forces that were manipulated in order to fly. In our case, we are using the term to help explain a feeling that has yet to be given a formulaic quotient.
By our definition, lift is the feeling that we can somehow have a perspective on existing that is both in and above the experience of living. Lift is the sense that there is some grand, but as-of-yet-unidentifiable pattern to the universe. Lift is the notion of observing one’s self from within one’s self.
Using this admittedly feeble explanation for the human “otherness” factor, let’s ask: How can art tap so seemingly effortlessly into a realm so poorly understood? Art seems to be a shortcut to understanding lift.
The Tortured Artist
Some say, as an artist, your entire career is an act of charity. The suffering and the inner exploration, while it enriches the doer, is primarily for the purpose of making the art better — which is for the see-er.
The deep dive, the long trek, the excruciating hike through the soul…. These are the primary tools of the artist who desires to do good for humankind through the artistic rendering of human experience. This may not be the artist’s expressed goal — they are simply doing what is intuitive for them.
She scratches and claws through page after page of ideas, desperately trying to land upon the one with a spark. He sits quietly on the bench — virtually unseen and unaffected by the bustle of passing traffic — observing the mundane, looking for a spark.
These are the tangible but transient behaviors the artist engages. But the deeper purpose is to find the foundational truth of the concept, the spark, that evidence of lift.
Suddenly, she hits on it. In that moment, there are no data, no statistical analyses. There is only a hunch, a vibe, a bet — and off she goes to work it out like dough under a polling pin. She pushes and pulls, that way and this, forward backward until it begins to take shape.
Finally it’s there in front of us. The art, the evidence, the proof of lift — it helps the rest of us see.
We see in her work some sliver of meaning, some shred of hope, a tiny ray of explanation, giving us context for our own story. We feel the warmth of the color pallet, we see the curve of the stone, we bask in the scale and presence of the work in front of us and begin to awaken inside.
We sense the lift that was alive in the artist in the moment of the discovery and in the process.
This connection — call it spiritual, call it kindred-ness, call it remote recognition, call it appreciation, but whatever it’s called — it is.
Can it be explained? Not really. Not by the artist, not by the industry critics, not by the author of this article. But it’s something. It’s there. It’s why we love art. Art gives us permission to explore this sense of lift without formalizing it. It adds no weight, no sense of should.
Art gives us permission to understand the deep things we already intuitively suspect. And while it may be an elusive subject, it behooves us to consider how art connects us to each other and to the world around us.