Art and Its Powers – Part 1
Part one in a four part series by Wesley Hurd MFA, Ph.D; Wesley Hurd © 2012.
The Power of Art
Art can be powerful. History and common human experience witness to this fact. Art can alter our conscious intellectual and emotional sensibilities evoking in us reflection on our lived experiences in this world. Art both causes and manifests silent explosions in the soul.
Human artistry, with its astonishing power to affect and shape human sensibilities, fascinates me. Throughout all history, it has changed, reinforced, and frequently altered the ways people see their world. Though few of us would say, “Art has changed my life,” most of us can testify to one or more experiences when music, a movie, a novel, a poem, or a painting affected us deeply—the memory of which remains with us.
The world would be a different place without Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescos, Van Gogh’s Night Café, Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, Picasso’s Guernica, and Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence.
Today the arts constitute a dynamically influential, culture-creating-and-shaping power. Given the character and nature of our postmodern society, art (primarily music, video, and cinema) generates a culture with the power to move, shape, and influence masses of people in ways we could not have imagined a hundred years ago. Images and sound have a far greater impact than words in creating and defining our “styles of consciousness” and both the content and boundaries of our social-cultural dialogues. Hence, those who envision and create those images, sounds, movements, spaces, and fictions hold significant influence and power among us.
Mostly we think of art as being emotionally powerful, which it is, but art is also a material trace of deep human convictions, beliefs, and ideas—including the most complex philosophical and spiritual reflections. Art can embody, reflect, and enforce our most sophisticated and vital ideas and beliefs. We know how words and language convey beliefs. But how do the arts accomplish this? To answer that question, we must begin by briefly defining “art.”