"ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. "
L. Ron Hubbard

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Regarding Usful and Useless

I remember once, when I was in college, a fellow seated across the table at the local college coffee shop asked me what I was majoring in. "Art," I answered. He reared back in his chair as if struck. "Art?" he said, "I heard you were smart."

The implication, of course, was that ART was a useless subject.

Of course, in one sense he was right. I graduated with a pretty "useless" degree. Fortunately, it was 1965, I had friends and family and a spirit of adventure, as resources . . . and the world was a more benign place than it is today. At least MY world. There were awful things going on in it, but they were distant.

And by 1967, I ran into the philosophy which was to define my direction for the rest of my life: Scientology.

Now this post is not about Scientology, per se, but about "Useful" and "Useless."

I have struggled with people's perceptions of the role of art and the artist many times. One guy remarked that he didn't understand why I would want to "just paint pretty pictures for the rest of my life." (Life seemed quite serious to him.)"

Another, met in an elevator in New York, asked me who my favorite artist was. On my reply "Rembrandt," he sneered as he got off the elevator and said, "Oh, you're a conservative."

These attitudes about "Useful" and "Useless" (or "Important" and "Unimportant") polarized people's attitudes about me. People pigeonholed me and categorized me and approached or receded according to their attitudes about how useful art was.

Art is useful because it decorates the world. It is useful because it is a communication about perception and truth and beauty. (Not just painting, now, but music, and poetry and dance etc.) It is useful because , in viewing art, or participating in art, we can step outside the too often weary mundane of our lives, the getting and spending.

And that's — to my mind — far more useful than making machines, fighting wars, pushing paper, participating in espionage, etc., etc., many of the  things that we consider "important" or "Useful."

As an individual, art lifts me above myself. As an artist, art presents problems enough for solving without having to invent problems. As a teacher, the joy my students find in the exploration of the process of art and in the development of their own communications makes me happy.

I invite you to read my husband's essay on Certainty and Opinion.

Is art useful? In my opinion it is, and I am quite certain of it. Tell me what you think?