Artists Rock Too

50for50_largerThe influential artist Marcel Duchamp once said “I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.” Although Duchamp was only half right, he made an important distinction between art and artists. Here at ArtsWestchester, we too believe in artists. They are an essential force in any creative community. Many venerable artists and philosophers have tried to explain the value of … the importance of … and the contributions of … art and artists. So with credit to those reliable sources, I refer to the experts. “To be an artist is to believe in life,” observed Henry Moore. And, of course we know that, as Henri Matisse put it, “Creativity takes courage.”

Then there’s Oscar Wilde, who opined that “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist” … and, said George Bernard Shaw, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” How true.

So what is it about art that makes it so unexplainable? According to John Ruskin, “Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth.” If Paul Cezanne were “called upon to define briefly the word Art,” he was quoted thusly. “I should call it the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature, seen through the veil of the soul.”

Of course the role of the artist remains debatable for some like Andre Gide. “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better,” he said. Of course it is humbling to remind ourselves that in the words of ralph Waldo Emerson “Every artist was first an amateur.” As for why ArtsWestchester is honoring fifty artists in celebration of its 50th anniversary, well, let’s give John F. Kennedy the last word: “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”

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