“Why do I like to go look at art?
I wonder about this. I don’t feel I know much about it, even after a lot of looking at it or thinking about it or blogging about it. If I had to define it, I’d stumble. I don’t have any sort of rigorous academic background that lets me ground what I am looking at into a theoretical framework, or a technical background that gives me insight into how something is made. A lot of it I just see with dumb wonder.
What I like is the shapes it leaves in my mind. For me, this is something that only happens when I see something in person. I look at lots of art on the internet, but digital images are usually outlines, a neat, discrete shorthand for something more. You can like them, but you can’t really trust them.
Earlier this year, I read two biographies of Anna Akhmatova. She wrote poems through shattering times. To read those poems and even the barest outline of her life is profound. Her biographers were passionate and thorough, and yet they didn’t capture any of the wonder of this. The capacity was lacking. Something within them had responded to her, her life. They had individually dedicated hours – years – in trying to communicate that response through biography, and in the end all they could create was a massive litany of fact. It was painful reading – the product of a thwarted, twisted sort of creative urge. I drove on through it, though, because I was in the same place. Something in her, in her poems, made me need more, even if it was just mediocre biography.
It’s a difficult thing to lack the form of expression. There are the golden among us – the people who can create, can conjure worlds in words or paint or music, can give shape to whatever hides in their mind or soul – and I suppose there are people who could care less about creating anything. But then there is the painful middle – those without a vent. I think of the Christmas carol verse ‘repeat the sounding joy.’ Sounding joy, as if our souls were bells. When I read or listen or look at certain things, I feel a sounding joy. Something inside echoes and creates the ghost of a wished-for form. There’s nowhere for it to go, no way to share it, but it’s there, and it gives me a little edge of divinity, the smallest share of creative genius.
That’s the best answer I have.”