Art for Brokenness
Most people think of art as a form of temporary escapism. But it is much more. It is through art that an audience can also find unexpected healing or emotional release.
Have you ever listened to the lyrics of a song and felt like someone was able to actually articulate what you'd struggled to express yourself? Or watched a film that made you marvel that others have experienced what you have? This is what is called catharsis; the most overused word in the vocabulary of an art student. It describes the process of cleansing or emotional release that an audience experiences when they engage with art. Whether it is music, a film, a novel or a painting.
Art is able to take on a kind of universal metaphysical language that transcends our spoken language and goes directly to the soul. I say universal, because art explores the general human condition. It has the power of holding up a mirror to our faces without the discomfort of actually facing the mirror ourselves and seeing our broken or blemished parts. It is in this indirect confrontation where there is healing, because it breaks through the walls we've created to protect ourselves. We escape into a world where we can deal with our heart's condition without any judgement or visibility from the outside world.
I used to be afraid of allowing art to influence me this way, or to open myself up to it, in case I was so caught up in the experience that I couldn't pull myself out from the pit. But I've learnt that you can allow it to speak to your soul and teach you some lessons and help you understand life a bit better. Through it, you can also feel less alone in this crazy world and find the sobriety that comes with sharing experiences with others.
As artists, we have the opportunity to lead our audiences to enlightenment and healing. I watched a really sad movie the other day called A Monster Calls, about a boy who deals with his mother's cancer by escaping to a fantasy world. At a deeper lever, the film is a children's movie about grief, and although I felt heavy-hearted afterwards, I was glad that there was a platform for children going through hard things to find solidarity and to process. I was lamenting with a friend the other day about a tough life experience I was going through and we sadly joked that it would help me be a better artist. As funny as that doesn't sound in the midst of heartache, it bares truth.
I have even found that creating art achieves the same purpose for the artist themselves. There are a number of times I have written a story, only to have a friend point out how it was speaking to an area in my life, without me having been conscious of it at the time. Although the focus of this article is brokenness, art also enlightens through inspiring and encouraging revelations about life.
Next time you create art, think of the struggling father in the audience who will pause and think, "Me too!" or the disillusioned idealist who will finally know "Yes I can, it is possible."
Till next time!