“Art is vital and isn’t simply a decoration. When art works in a mass way it’s because many individuals are strengthened and fulfilled to recognize themselves and have a new idea about things through what they’ve seen rather than having an outside force.” –William Kentridge
William Kentridge, “Balancing Act, from 7 Fragments for Georges Méliés” 2003; Source: napavalley.edu
Art helps define identity, it builds courage, and it builds communities. These are essential elements of a happy and successful artistic life. I construct my identity by drawing a connection between art and myself. On a macro level, my identity is confirmed or recognized in art based on what I hear, see, read, and feel kinesthetically and emotionally. When I connect to art, I connect with ideas that resonate with me. I acknowledge the fact that I am not alone, that someone else feels this way, and I am part of a larger community. This allows me to either learn something new or confirm what I already know about myself.
Visual artist William Kentridge, known for his charcoal drawings and animated films, confirms this function of art. In an interview, Kentridge discusses how through art he is able to confirm or recognize his identity. He also describes a larger effect of art on the world: that the changes in the world don’t come from the art itself, but, rather, the individuals that have been affected by art in the same way that he is affected.
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The power of community
“We were solely concerned with the experiencing on ourselves and in togetherness the increased vigour of the spiritual-emotional-physical forces which are united in dance. Why? Because we were drawn to it, we benefited from it, and we were inspired by it.”
– Rudolf Laban
I confirm my identity by connecting with other people in a like-minded community of artists. Being able to draw a connection between my values and those of others in a larger community is essential to how I build confidence in my identity as an artist. Rudolf Laban, artist, visionary, choreographer, and philosopher recognized the power of reflecting personal views and ideals in a way to socially impact others and the world. In many aspects of his creative work, one example being the creation and exploration of Movement Choirs, Laban created an organized structure to include improvised personal and communal gestures of social importance to the participants. He empowered and inspired people/artists/movers individually by creating an opportunity that would both allow them to see more of who they are and to also recognize themselves as part of a larger whole, thus confirming their identities as artists, creators, and movers in a larger context.
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The power of courage
“There is a profound joy in the realization that we are helping to form the structure of the new world. This is creative courage, however minor or fortuitous our creations may be.”
– Rollo May
I recently discovered the need for courage in creating art. Finding courage allows me to connect with other artists, which in turn, helps me identify myself and my work in this world. Creating art also acts as a contribution to a community and the world. Rollo May, an American Existential Psychologist supports this sentiment in his book, The Courage to Create. I agree with May that it is rewarding to contribute to a larger community, no matter the size of the contribution. It is important to recognize that joy and creative courage confirm a sense of confidence and contribution in the identity of an artist. This sense of confidence and purpose mould my values in art that stem from my experiences in the world.