Art wakes us up to the world

Sculpture by Monmouth College Professor of Ceramics, Janis Mars Wunderlich http://www.janismarswunderlich.com

Just about every day I walk by McMichael Academic Building on our college’s campus where the art program is housed. Typically, I am running late for a meeting, racing to beat the chimes tolling on the top of Wallace Hall with my nose pressed to my smartphone to make sure I don’t miss a single email or message via Facebook. Like my students, I have gotten very good at race walking while scrolling through my feed. But as I fly past McMike, something in the grass outside that building catches my attention. I remove my nose from my digital device to look and I see what appears to be a large, yellow plaster snake sitting in the grass. It’s not a scary snake. It has a little smile or smirk on its face and a cute little mosaic of pebbles running down its back. But it makes me pause. What is this? Now I’m late for my meeting, but I am curious. What does this mean?

Crazy art appears outside of McMike like this often. Red and blue solo cups emerge from and circle around the windows. Yarn bombs explode and knit the trees in colorful little sweaters. Bike parts are welded together and assembled into a new and curious sculpture. These displays always make me stop and recalibrate my trip across campus. They take me out of my self-absorbed, smartphone existence to reconsider the space I am in. Art does that. It wakes us up to the world and can even change how we move through it.

I don’t want to go through life unawake and unaware. So I befriend artists—poets, creative writers, musicians, visual artists—who have the ability to see and sense and notice the world better than me. Artists help me see the sacred vitality of every thing and every one. Like the poet Mary Oliver, who writes:

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.[1]

 

[1] “Messenger” by Mary Oliver from her book of poems entitled, Thirst.

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8 thoughts on “Art wakes us up to the world

  1. I never initially considered what exactly it is that set means to me. I would say it brings primarily aesthetic pleasure. As far as what it does to me, It can bring joy on multiple levels and even spark critical thinking in other areas of my life.

  2. Art to me is noticing the beauty in the small things in nature like trees, flowers, and animals. It does bring me aesthetic pleasure, but mostly brings me relaxation and makes me happy that such beautiful things can be found in the most basic things in life.

  3. To me art portrays feelings and emotions that cannot be expressed into words. It is the product of the most intricate ideas and thoughts that artists want others to know. Art allows me to see the beauty that is hidden in our world that we might not see initially.

  4. Art always makes me wonder what was going on inside a person’s head at the instant they decided to make their artwork and why it means so much to them. I try to find the meaning behind every piece of artwork I see because it would not have been made without a purpose. Sometimes this purpose is rather simple but either way it always stops and makes me think before I go on my way.

  5. Life can be hectic, and the hustle and bustle can drag us along a bit faster than we’d prefer. Art is good at making you stop, or at least slow down, for a moment to contemplate and appreciate. Whether it’s your favorite song helping relieve stress on the way to a final or a literal snake in the grass causing you to be late to your meeting, art tries to always make sure you enjoy the little things.

  6. Art to me is finding the beauty in everyday life. It can be something as simple as noticing all of nature and it’s beauty or more complex when trying to understand a work of art and the message the creator was trying to send toward its intended audience. Art makes me happy and notice all the great things in this world, when I’m in a good mood, but when bogged down and distracted by other things going on in my life, I fail to appreciate it as much as I should.

  7. Art to me is finding the beauty in everyday life. It can be something as simple as noticing all of nature and it’s beauty or more complex when trying to understand a work of art and the message the creator was trying to send toward its intended audience. Art makes me happy and notice all the great things in this world, when I’m in a good mood, but when bogged down and distracted by other things going on in my life, I fail to appreciate it as much as I should.

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