I’ll try to keep this short. Or not.
Two major genres of the written arts are poetry and prose fiction. Duh! so far. I refer to them only to make a point.
The General Stuff
Okay. I’ll first generalize aspects of art and then throw in my two cents.
Both genres start with a narrator persona. This is the individual that communicates a story or shows us an experience. One genre form spans an amount of time (usually) while the other could be captured in a single moment of compressed language.
Both have a narrator, someone who is human. The narrator can speak in many ways: objective, subjective, melancholy, breathless. The narrator shares an experience that we can all sense and feel and form into images within our mind. A human speaking to us through fiction and poetry is partly what makes these genres art: It’s the humanity aspect.
Anyone reading this post is a human and being human is a universal kind of thing: We all can laugh, cry, sneer and point fingers at boring blog posts like this one. The human experience is broad. And we communicate our experiences and captured images through spoken and written words.
No matter where we come from on this planet, we all share something in common: we’re human. And if you want to create art, you should have an appreciation for what makes all of us tick.
My Two Cents. Keep the Change
So far, so good. But now, you may not like what I have to say. Stop reading this if you already disagree with me. Or, you are bored.
One, art is not the same as sentimentality. Humans have emotions which is a good thing. And it’s good when an object of emotion deserves it. Unfortunately, sentimentality indulges the emotion for its own sake. It can be a cliche, too. Sentimentality may take shape as objects and images with built-in stock responses and reactions: Home, sweet home; baskets of kittens; the handsome smiling guy in a tuxedo. If you flip through a magazine, there are lots of sentimental images.
Two, it’s probably best to keep political messages out of your art. No matter where you declare yourself on a political spectrum, we all end up in the middle: Human. Politics certainly can be emotional. But popular or current political messages and ideologies seem to gloss over art with a paintbrush that does the opposite of humanizing, casting aside our universal emotions and replacing our senses with abstractions that are cataloged or they are bundled into a slogan or used to score points for one side or another. It seems that some humans on this planet will be painted out of Life’s canvas if they do not go along with a message.
Three, art is proportional. There’s beauty in the conventional ugly. The same can be said if this is flipped. Robert Morgan, a poet, has written about hog pens and manure piles.
The Reader is the Narrative (Or, It’s My Story)
This one’s a little trickier. Take some of what I write now as tongue-in-cheek. Maybe.
The reader-is-the-narrator philosophy may be surrealism in another form. Both Dadaists and Surrealists like to ask the question, “What does the art do?” Not, “What does it mean?” Most likely, a common sense notion of a narrator guiding others or speaking to readers has no place in a world of dreams.
This approach to art is meant to be an experience. Surrealists hope to promote the untapped forces of the unconscious and of fantasy. It’s about preferring spontaneity over effort. I can accept this to a point and this idea can improve a narrative.
Dreamers certainly have expanded our fictional and artistic imagery, but as humans we only dare go so far. Dreams are interesting, but readers (humans) recognize that they are grounded in concrete physical realities that we can sense. A dream truck will never hurt you. Don’t actually stand in front of a moving semi or the dream ends.
As humans, we recognize the need to communicate through spoken words and written text for safety, to transmit ideas, to pass on knowledge and we enjoy a narrator’s shared experience. Unless we somehow discover a way to survive lifetimes in a vacuum, fantasies that attempt to transcend certain physical boundaries will most likely never be fully accepted by humans.
That’s It. Go Home
Some readers already have.
For those of you who have made it this far, I have little else to say about art. But I probably have more. Anyway, the subject is not as nebulous as those who speak in hushed voices on radios would have you believe it to be.
As I’ve said, if you can read this, then you are human. You can sense art. It’s all around you and in you. Search for it. See it. Feel it. Listen to it. Then communicate it.