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Art as a Method of Thought

Tiffany Hsueh

I’ll speak frankly and concisely: art is not my thing. Coming from a liberal arts background, I feel as if I am straddling two worlds, one of the strictly rational and one of the creative. It is an amalgamation of two worlds that requires abstract thinking, but also real life application of solutions to problems that arise; a world deeply seeped in theory, but living in reality.

I do not think of myself as particularly artistic or creative or musically inclined, even though I’ve tried many times. But art has become, to me, a method of thought, a mindset in which to think, and a lens though which to observe.

Art has moved beyond the physical and literal motions of creation into the realm of the theoretical underpinnings that drive it forward; its genesis. I don’t always agree with a piece of art or the artist, but I respect the thought behind it, the point of view of the artist, and the eventual creation. It’s the process that interests, but also befuddles me. To gain the ability to see, feel, touch, or taste a sensation or concept is enlightening and complicated; complex. I think it’s our ability to empathize with others that allows us to interpret art. It’s the next to best thing other than being the artist his/herself. I would say that the arts are part of our human nature. It is embedded within us just as human emotions are part of our genes.

I was not immersed in theater or band or painting or writing nor did I go to an arts-focused high school. Art was an elective class I took throughout elementary school and middle school and picked up for two years in orchestra during high school. I’ve never taken an art history or photography class, which isn’t to say that I’m not interested in art; I just wanted to explore other things. However, my summer interning at Americans for the Arts has opened my eyes to something so much grander than my notions of art.

While I understand the vast scope of the arts and its importance in society, I did not understand it beyond its textbook definition—that art has been, is, and will continue to delineate culture, history, and life. Art sustains life even in the face of economic trials and political upheavals. It is the process of art that makes it invaluable to me. The arts bring many immeasurable additions to the table and should never be debased to its most tangible form because that’s not all art is.

I think about the ways the arts haven’t impacted my life. And then I think about the times it has. For example, when I had the gift of time, I used to lose myself in crafts making collages, painting, and writing; how musings in my brain flowed onto paper and the scribbles in the margins of my notebook etched my feelings; how these things represent my clustered thoughts and emotions in the depths of my brain and heart; and, how those flowed through my veins and sought an outlet.

And as I sit here, attempting to clearly articulate my feelings, I realize that this piece has gone through an artistic process itself.  That, while I try to explain my thoughts and feelings from my point of view, you can hopefully empathize, discern, and understand what exactly I’m trying to say.

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