A couple weeks ago I wrote a post by the name of “The Dangers of Safe Art“. In it I explored that I don’t think “safe” is a great target when it comes to great descriptors of art. In it I also suggested a few words that I think are much more compelling, words like Honest, Challenging, Prophetic, Yearning, Leading, Calling for Action, Real, Raw, in various comments and conversations afterwards people used other words like “Redemptive” & “Reflective”
It’s always much easier to state the negative (Art shouldn’t primarily try to be safe) and much more difficult to point in the right direction. I suppose you could say…it’s less safe. Nothing is easier than throwing rocks from a distance. However just like good art, I think good blogs point to something rather than just criticize. Criticism is easy and unless accompanied with hope is largely a waste of time.
All that to say, I am no expert but let’s start to build a list of positive descriptors of art; I’ll use some of the ones from my original post as well as some of the follow-up
- Honest – To say Art should be honest seems too obvious and cliche but yet…true. Art is expression. Art is voice. If it doesn’t reflect something that is true about the creator or how they experience life, the planet, other people. Honesty doesn’t mean obvious, guys like David Bowie were famous for writing form other characters perspective, but it still contained an obvious piece of the artist and their thoughts on the human condition. Artists can create in a multiplicity of different vantage points and use “un-truths” like satire etc. but it still needs to be honest. Maybe it’s eternally true, maybe it’s honest in a moment, but it has to be real! If the creator doesn’t believe the piece, why should anyone else? (Example: Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars)
- Challenging – Not all good art challenges us directly. But I think the BEST art does in some way. Challenges us to act, challenges us to understand, challenges us to have compassion, challenges us to challenge the system, maybe even challenges us to appreciate a new beauty. (Check out Silence is Shameful by Luke Dowler)
- Prophetic – This one is a little trickier, but I love art that paints a picture of where we could be, or what ought to be. Pictures of good relationship. Pictures of hope. Pictures of where I am called to go. (Check out Under Bridges by Brave Saint Saturn)
- Redemptive – Redemption is such a beautiful word and concept. Taking something that has been corrupted and restoring. Reflecting the ugly but showing beauty and in doing so bringing freshness. There is a lot of hip-hop that does this well. (Check out Wavin’ Flag by K’naan)
- Reflective – This one is a little different. It’s not a call to change. Great art is reflective of goodness as well. There is some fantastic art that not only reflects the human creator but also the Creator. A painting of a flower, a sculpture, a photo of true friends smiling, a doll reflecting the innocence of a newborn. Some great art simply acts as a mirror to take us out of our own heads and condition and remind us that beauty is all around! (Check out this video: http://vimeo.com/24456787)
What do you think? What are some descriptors of goodness in art?