Blessed by ArtistsBy: Mike May 16, 2013
Patty and I recently attended an art symposium dedicated to improving the support for the arts in our area. The Tri-Cities is getting to be a moderately populous area, with about 250,000 total residents. However, we have fewer concerts, art galleries, ballets, etc. than many similar-sized towns. The good news is there are lots of people hoping to change that. One of the difficulties in bringing art to the area is that many of the government and business leaders don't believe that art is necessary. It's not seen as integral to the community, but as the proverbial icing on the cake. It's the last thing to add and the first thing to cut from the budget. Personally, I think that's a mistake: art is humanity, distilled.
Patty and I don't have any degrees in art, haven't spent years in Europe painting at the hand of some great master, and have no fancy titles. And yet we love art. Sometimes, I think that art means more to those who don't have a particular talent for it. If it were up to me to decorate our home it would look very . . . industrial. Instead, there are paintings adorning almost every wall. How wonderful to live in a day where great art can be reproduced as high-quality prints so that people on every budget can enjoy it. Thanks to various artists, we wake each day surrounded by beauty I could never hope to create.
But art is so much more than beauty. It's a means of communication that transcends words. I suspect that many of the people who follow this site know a little about feeling like an outsider; about not quite fitting in. Many years ago I saw a painting called Fitting In by Mark Ferrari. Go ahead and click the link, it's worth it. At the time, I was a young professional, whose ideals were shaped by a steady diet of Science Fiction and Fantasy reading, trying to blend into a world of NASCAR and boxing fans. This painting hit me like a truck. I couldn't stop looking at it. That was, metaphorically speaking, me, choosing which path to follow. And different, at least in Mark Ferrari's eyes, could be beautiful.
The art in our house isn't florals or landscapes. It's not the sort of thing one will find hanging in hotel lobbies or corporate conference rooms. They are pieces that have called to us from across convention art shows or the internet and captured the imagination.
When Dan Dos Santos painted the cover for Bone Crossed we had to have it. In the stories, Mercy had been battered, abused and tested (Patty is not kind to characters!). We had kind of expected an action-shot of some sort for the cover. Instead, Dan painted this incredibly lush canvas with deep saturated blues, showing Mercy standing in the rain, with her head tipped back, just sort of letting life wash off her. She looks serene, or at least like she's trying to find that place again. To me, it's a philosophy course rendered in a single frame.
Like many readers, many of my earliest friends and heroes were fictional characters. I so wanted to sail the stars with Anne McCafferey's Helga, or travel to Cherryh's tree of sword and jewels. I wanted to have the courage of Louis L'Amour's Sacketts, and the brains of Sherlock Holmes. I alternately wanted to be a space marine and a wizard. Sometimes I was Spock, and I often played guitar with Spider Robinson's characters at Callahan's Bar. All of these heros were more real to me than the political and sports figures of the day. My character was shaped by elves, my morals forged in the fires of Mordor.
And music, of course, is perhaps my first and most abiding love. When life hands out lemons, there is no comfort like the familiar sound of favorite music. Finding a new band I like, particularly if they already have several albums out, is like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning.
I am not an artist, I am merely a consumer of art. But as I look at the playlist on my computer, the shelves full of books, the rack of DVD's and the walls laden with pictures I recognize how deeply art has affected me, and how much it means in my life. We live surrounded by beauty that I could not have created myself. We are supported by people who find in Patty's stories something worth paying for. Thank you to the artists who have enriched our lives, and to those who support them. Thank you to everyone who believes that creating beauty and meaning is not just an afterthought in life, but the focus of it.