Art for the sake of art. In Latin it’s: Ars Gratia Artis. That’s the motto of MGM, if you look at their logo of the roaring tiger, above his head is a ribbon with those words written across it.

I’ve always loved that idea. Art for the sake of art.

As a writer, my art, the moment I know I’m creating art, is when the world falls away. Once that happens, when I’m in the thick of a story, skies open up, the sun twists and turns; I own the light and the stars and the shadows. I allow the elements to frame what I’m doing in just the right way. That’s when my art comes alive for me. That’s when I’m writing for the sake of writing.

Art however…oh art for the sake of art. Not for the almighty dollar, not for the fame, the notoriety, but to make tangible the way an artist sees the world. I love that.

I’m always looking for art. I think I’m always looking for it, because if I’m not, then it’s always finding me. Though, I think we train ourselves to look for the things that have meaning for us. Example: when we got our new car, I thought to myself, I don’t know about this brand. I don’t see anyone with these cars driving around. Now, I notice these cars ALL the time. Turns out everyone owns one off these cars. It’s because I became more aware of them than I’d been before.

In that same vein, I’m always hyper aware of art. I love art. I have a deep appreciation for the arts, for artists who can ply their trade on canvas and the like. I know what I like, and I’ve grown to appreciate what I don’t always understand in the art world.

Of the four ongoing journals I keep (One: for internal thoughts, where I follow the twists and turns of their complex reasoning’s; Two: for quotes I come across that I want to collect, like pressed flowers. Three: for ideas that demand to be handwritten onto a page.) Well, the fourth journal is for art that has inspired me, or an artistic rendering of the day that longs to be remembered. The idea is nothing new, but for me this art and words journal is a convenient home for a tactile lover of art.

I’ve always made room for art in my life.  I remember taking my husband to an art show when we first started dating. It wasn’t his sort of thing, and it was so right up my alley. He went because we were in the throes of new love. Not that we still aren’t, but love grows and matures so that you can say to the person you’ve built a life with, “you know, I don’t really want to go to this year’s computer technology symposium on the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos.” (Those are the proper terms in the tech world by the way. Don’t Google it, just trust me.)

So we went to an art show, and standing in front of a large white canvas with an orange dot in the upper right quadrant and a red dot in the middle; my then boyfriend looked at me and said, “I don’t get it, why is this art? I could do this.” We leaned closer and found that the painting was for sale if we wanted to purchase it for the acceptable price of $600.00. To which my then boyfriend loudly whispered, “Six hundred bucks! For what? I’ll go do this right now if someone wants to give me six hundred dollars!”

I must admit, there is some art along those lines that I don’t understand either. Of course, I wonder if our visceral reaction to the work, “What the hell?” … if that wasn’t part of what the artist is trying to do? Isn’t that what all artists are trying to do? Create something that renders a reaction of its viewers? I know that’s what writing attempts. It tries to make the reader see a different point of view, a different life. It tries to pull you into the story so that you can’t stop reading until that final paragraph. In the same way art works, I suppose words also attempt to paint a picture so the reader has a visceral reaction.

Gertrude Stein’s Apartment in Paris

There is this story I like to regurgitate, it’s from A Moveable Feast. Hemingway asked Gertrude Stein about collecting art. Her taste was something of legendary proportions in Paris in the twenties. She reportedly told him that he should collect art that spoke to him; art that he liked. Then she said, that since he had no money, it wasn’t important what he collected though. (That was Stein’s sense of humor.) But the basis of the advice still holds. Collect art you like. All the art I have in my home are pieces that move me. I have several works done by friends and I love that I know the stories, the inspiration and the person behind the work. I think that has a lot to do with art as well.

I’m twisting this idea of art out like a wet rag today for a few reasons.

The first is Frida Kahlo. I’ve seen her image every day for about two months now. And I’m not making this one up. Every single day, whether I’m going to the grocery store, picking the kid up from school, walking around downtown, an image or reference to Frida Kahlo shows up. I’m not sure why. I do love her through. Since I was in grade school and first learned about her, I’ve always had a fondness for Frida. I’ve read several books on her life in the past few weeks and spent a whole day searching to the ends of the internet looking at photographs of the woman, her work; watching old home movies and reading more about her. 

The second reason art has become a prevalent theme lately is self-inflicted. I started watching the show Civilizations on Netflix. Narrated by Liev Schreiber, the nine episodes attempt to “Survey the history of art, from antiquity to the present, on a global scale. Civilizations reveals the role art and creative imagination have played in forging humanity, and introduce viewers to works of beauty, ingenuity and illumination across cultures.”

The series brings up some wonderful ideas and interesting theories of how we see the world and how the world has been presented to us throughout the ages in art form. I love this idea that art allows the achievements of early civilizations to be echoed through the ages. And at the same time, even if attempts are made to destroy a civilization and all traces of it, (the Aztec peoples come to mind) not all is forgotten. Because there is still art that survives. And through that art, we’re given the ability to decode what a civilization believed and valued.

Just think of the way you decorate your own home. If a strange came in and walked around your home, if you weren’t allowed to say anything, wouldn’t your values still be spied most honestly? Wouldn’t we be able to see how it is you define yourself? What you believe?

The creation of art is what I love. Where nothing existed previously, something is created. Whether the medium is stone, canvas, wood, mixed media. Art can be more than just representation. It can be a form of healing and a form of rebellion. Sure art can tear us apart, but it can also bring us together. It’s through art that we can begin to see the world through another’s eyes. Art can help begin a conversation about an important issue. Art can broaden our horizons.

I am a purveyor of the arts. All sorts. I support it, collect it, create it…do what I can. Maybe my optimism is showing, but at the heart of it, I think there is lovely human hope in art.

Ars Gratia Artis…indeed.