Monday, September 20, 2010

The Spiritual Side of Art

She Thinks by Brian Sherwin

The Spiritual Side of Art

Art has the power to move people-- if art did not there would, in most cases, be no reason to create art in the first place. The visual dialogue that is art is one of the purest forms of communication in my opinion. There are hundreds if not thousands of examples of art that is capable of touching the soul of viewers. For example, viewers have been known to weep while standing before a painting by Mark Rothko-- while others have cried openly before Picasso’s Guernica. More recently-- viewers of Chet Zar’s work have described a ‘strange calm’ while gazing upon the world he has created with paint. Why? Because these works touched them on an inner level.

True, these works can move someone on an emotional level. However, I would say that emotion and the spiritual often mesh. I’m not necessarily talking about the religious aspects of spirituality as much as the fact that many people will describe how a specific image can ‘touch’ them on the inside-- a connection that is often beyond words and expression. These connections are made everyday in art galleries and art museums worldwide-- they can even happen online.

In many of these examples the viewer has prior knowledge of what the image represents or about the life of the artist-- they may have read about the specific artwork in a book before having ever viewed it in person. In other words, people know that Rothko had a difficult life and that Guernica captures the horror and pain of war. However, even without that knowledge the use of color, figures, and symbolism can have universal implications I would think. You could say that we are born to understand visual images to some degree.

Thus, without knowing one can experience a message-- one that touches the core of how he or she defines himself or herself-- that is just as powerful as the message experienced by an art historian who knows the who, what, when, and where. To me, that is the power of art-- and the basis of why we feel connected to specific images. In a sense, we can understand an image without fully understanding. Such is life. True?

Consider this an open topic concerning the spiritual aspects of art. Has a specific work of art touched your soul? Can you recall a specific work of art that helped your through a difficult time or defined a time of joy for you? I know that some people suggest that there is no longer room for the spiritual in the art of today-- do you agree? Or would you say that the spiritual aspects of art surround us just as they did in other periods of time? In your opinion, why does visual art have this power-- why do viewers establish these personal connections?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. in '82, i remember the first time i saw Monet's work @ the Metropolitan during a Manet exhibition. After viewing Manet, Picasso and lots of pottery, i wondered into a view of Monet's seascapes. those paintings moved me to tears as you spoke of where as none prior to that room did.

    being aritst i understand my own emotional involvement while painting. the deepest reward to me is not monetary. for me, watching someone else's response is. often i give art away to those who "fall in love" with a piece rather than sell it.

    i'm conintually amazed at what people like or don't like. often my favorites are definitely NOT with onlookers. who can know? as long as we have people to view our works and some connect, it's worth it all!

    as for reward, i for one am glad you started this blog! you make the business of art more understandable for both spectator and artist...

  2. Brian, first of all, great article! Everything you mentioned I believe is true. I'll be willing to share my experience, in a nutshell if possible.
    I became a young widow unexpectedly on July 99. I was 37 yrs. old at the time. During periods of extreme raw grief, I decided to buy a canvas,paint, and brushes. I gave myself premission to painting what I was feeling. I still have that painting today. It became like a live journal for me. Out there for me to see and not deny what I was feeling or thinking.
    To fast forward this personal story, I ended up selling our house, moving to Sarasota, FL to attend art school. Wow, was I scared, but all in a good way. Living in Sarasota and attending art school gave me a reason to get up in the morning. That opportunity opened up a whole new world for me and new dreams.
    Now I am a professional fulltime artist continuing to pursue my dreams.
    So, yes, art awoke me in the inside and spiritually, I began to live again, thanks to my Creator.
    Allison Reece