More Than Just Didactic Art

When you look at visual art (paintings, drawings, mixed media, abstract stuff, and other things of art), what’s the first thought that comes to your mind? Either, “Well that looks pretty cool,” or, “My two-year-old could do better.” Either way, it’s for entertainment purposes, isn’t it? You go to museums so that you can look at awesome stuff and indulge your eyes in the beauty of artwork. Some people actually go there to look up facts and data about artwork and artists, but not me. I usually go to museums and art galleries just to look at the awesomeness people can create. “Dude, look at that realistic painting of a tree! It’s got leaves and branches and everything!”

In school, when I studied mixed media, I learned all about the artists, their lives, their families, and studied the artistic components, methods, and designs used and embedded in their work. That was the extent of what my teachers taught me about art. I had to figure out for myself what the artwork’s meaning was. My teachers told me, “It’s up for your own interpretation. Now, sit down at this computer and write a paragraph about what you think this piece of art means. Include philosophical concepts and be sure to cite your sources. And do not, under any circumstances, use Wikipedia. It’s from the Devil.”

Anyway, I think art should be more didactic rather than just intelligent entertainment. It can be both. The problem is, there is didactic art out there, but it doesn’t shift any paradigms or world views. The morals that the artworks convey are usually merely reminders of social norms, political correctness, or awareness raisers. But they aren’t dramatic paradigm-shifters and radical life-changers.

But what if art was like that? What if art wasn’t just didactic in the traditional sense (portraying moral values), but actually had the power to change lives, and shift paradigms? What if you looked at a piece of art and then realized, “Woah there, so that’s how Jesus dealt with money! This could even be the new economy! Holy cow, I have to tell Steve about this!” or “Wait a second, this painting totally describes a new way of doing education! I could present this painting to the crowd instead of giving a one hour speech!”

So what are you waiting for, artists? Tell the world your life-changing idea in form of a painting, a collage, an assembly, a construction, or whatever else you do. Let it not be a moral preaching, but a life changer instead. That would be cool. I’m gonna go draw a stick figure now and call it abstract art.