Lynda Lehmann : Art and Power
Art and Power
By Lynda Lehmann
I think most of us would agree that producing art gives us power. I see it as a power over ourselves, as opposed to power over what is outside of ourselves. It is a personal power over our own energy, perception, and motivational systems. And perhaps more important, the making of art helps us transcend the need to achieve a social equilibrium (which IMHO is rarely possible anyway). Instead, we are involved in a process by which we may achieve a degree of harmony within ourselves, in relation to the universe. In the dynamic state of being committed to a creative process, we do not need to steal anyone's energy, or let them steal energy from us.
The truth wears six billion faces, each with different life circumstances, a different life script, and a different mode of emotional being. For me, doing art takes me to a place from which I can accept all scripts and embrace the subjective and relative nature of truth. (This is not to imply that morality is relative, however, because murder and extortion are always wrong, no matter whose script dictates it.)
Because my own script, when involved in creative process, is so engaging to me, always varied and full of mystery, it teaches me both tolerance and hope. The bounty of creative options available to me, gives me confidence in the infinite potential of the universe, for hope, harmony, and healing. In short, it gives me joy.
I have heard it said that artists, in doing art, are participating in a God-like creation process, and indeed it is true. While we are by no means transmuted into gods by making art, we at least become his humble hand-maidens. We see glimpses of beauty and wonder in places where other people may fail to look, unearthing it at every turn. We see new relationships, both visual and metaphoric, sociological and scientific. It becomes easier for us to step back or undercut the tendency to power struggles, that so often consumes people. (The last thing we need in this weary world is more conflict, personal or generalized, to spew hatred around the globe!)
I have heard it said, also, that we artists make art in order to find love and to be loved. I think the apex of this is that in the tender connections we make to the universe, we find some degree of self-love. I think this is a balanced form of self-love that perceives the relative and tenuous nature of things, including the subjective nature of our own lives. Therefore, in my opinion, it is a mature self-love, not to be confused with narcissism. •
Author's Note: This has been modified slightly since it was published online as a response to Robert Genn's perceptions on the topic of "art and power," as presented first in his newsletter and then on his "Painter's Keys" website.
© 2006 Lynda Lehmann
Abstract Expressionist painter Lynda Lehmann studied Art Education at Penn State University and earned her BFA from Hofstra. More »