What’s the Use?

 

“The One Tree.” 2.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.25″. Mosaic paper collage on wood block, finished with polyurethane varnish. $45.00.

My upbringing, along with a certain aspect of my nature, occasionally lead me to question why I do what I do, which is Make Art.  On the face of it, a wood block with bits of paper glued to it seems useless, even to me.  Certainly it would seem, although pretty, also pretty useless to the people who reared and educated me. Even now, some of the people who visit my booth at art shows must surely go away with that opinion when they pick up the block and discover that it does not even open; it is not a box.  Although a box is not a complex technology, it does have a purpose–to hold things, to organize.  If I were to make a box and make it large enough, it could hold an entire collection of useless things–even my collaged blocks–and that would make it useful, but with some futility to its usefulness.

And it’s not far, then, to the question, “If I make useless things, am I useful?”

I am going to abandon this line of questioning before I get mired in it because it is impractical in its practicality.  Art, which masquerades as a materiality, is much more than that.  So, frankly, are we humans, whether or not we are lovers or makers of art.  The question “What’s the use?”, so delightfully musically elaborated upon in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, is too small for who we are.  What we love is what we love, often for no good reason, or at least none that we

“Most This Amazing.” 2.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.25″. Mosaic paper collage on wood block, finished with polyurethane varnish. $35.00.

can articulate.  Furthermore, what cheers and encourages us in life–even makes it worth living–can often be proved by some scheme of logic to be gratuitous.  One could even say that life itself is gratuitous.  But we are here anyway, and that is what we must deal with–practically.  And here, also, is this collaged block.  

Perhaps the puzzled visitors to my art booth, upon discovering the block does not open, are not really asking “What’s the use?” but “How shall I relate to this thing?  How does it fit into my life.”

That is a personal question.  I can’t answer that for another person, any more than I can tell them what their favorite color should be, or with whom they should fall in love.  I like to see the art I make go home with people who have connected with it, even “fallen in love.”  Personally, that is why I buy art.  I can’t buy all the art I love, but I love the art I buy.

I cannot explain exactly how this works, but these apparently useless pieces I spend my days making do somehow, sometimes, in their abstractness and wordlessness, speak to people.  I am always surprised when somebody seems to “get it” because I’m not certain I always get it myself.  The thing I know is that I love to create and that there is nothing in the world I want to do more than what I am doing.  Somehow, sometimes, that message seems to be communicated in the art.

“The Quixotic Imagination.” 2.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.25″. Mosaic paper collage on wood block, finished with polyurethane varnish. $38.00.

 

The thing about handmade things, whether or not they have an apparent use, is that something of the spirit of their maker is invested in them, whether or not the maker or receiver are conscious of that being the case.  Every now and then I look around at the walls and surfaces of my home and realize that the many pieces of art I own are somehow challenging and comforting me, and also nurturing my own creative spirit.  Furthermore, they are giving me pleasure.

That is no small achievement for an inanimate object.

I am a great appreciator of the work of the British sculptor, Henry Moore, who died in 1986 at age 88.  In a 1964 article published in a French journal, Moore is quoted.  “I believe that art in itself is akin to religion,” he said.  “Art is, in fact, another expression of the belief that life is worth living.”  

 

“Rest at the Center.” 2.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.25″. Mosaic paper collage on wood block, finished with polyurethane varnish. $38.00.

If I may borrow a religious term, art is “sacramental.”  It does not just sit there, it speaks, it conjures connections, stirs our feelings and imaginations, surprises, delights, and moves us, and reminds us of how wonderful it can be to be a human being.  An artwork conveys something of its creator when that person is in his or her very best mind, which is the creative mind through which the artwork came to being.  Furthermore, it is emblematic of some sort of striving and triumph, the completion of a tiny heroic quest undertaken in order to create the artwork. A work of art presents us, then, with a living experience, perhaps stirring to life some beauty sleeping within us.  Now I am not saying that any of the art images I’ve posted here are necessarily doing that for you, but I am saying that there is art that can speak to you like a friend, and that is personal and valuable.  Maybe even, in the grand scheme of things, useful.

“La Balance.” 2.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.25″. Mosaic paper collage on wood block, finished with polyurethane varnish. $38.00.

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