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The work of art will creep into all aspects of your life, enriching how you play with your children, what you give to your ...
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The work of art will creep into all aspects of your life, enriching how you play with your children, what you give to your personal relationships and how you do your job. This down-to-earth book takes the mystery of the arts and puts it into your hands to make a joyful difference in the quality of your everyday life.
Art, like sex, is too important to leave to the professionals--too important because of the delight and satisfaction it provides, and too important because of its role in creating each person's future. This book is dedicated to restoring our artistic birthright: an endless intercourse with attractive things.
Art is not apart. It is a continuum within which all participate; we all function in art, use the skills of art, and engage in the action of artists every day. Underneath the surface distinctions that make individual lives seem very different, art is a common ground we share; the work of art is a way we all do things when we are working well. Our unheralded everyday actions of art comprise one end of the human spectrum of artistry; the other end is the creation of masterpieces in the arts that we readily label as art: newlyweds setting the table for their first Thanksgiving dinner on one extreme, and da Vinci's painting The Last Supper on the other; a businesswoman shifting the sequence of the slides in her presentation on one extreme, Sam Shepard transposing the order of the scenes during rehearsals of True West on the other. The differences are obvious, easy to identify and laugh about; the similarities (which are the focus of this book) may be less evident, but they construct the way we experience being alive. If we can acknowledge and honor the art we perform, if we can stay aware of and develop the skills of art we use daily, if we can borrow appropriate and useful trade secrets from artists, who are the experts and exemplars of this field, we can dramatically enrich the quality of daily life.
The main artistic media (music, theater, dance, visual and literary arts) have survived because we thrill to witness what humans can accomplish, what the body can express, what the human voice can do at its best--what subtle truths people can communicate. Masterworks in art invite and reward our best attention; they also enable us to extend the range of our own overlooked artistic competencies. Apprehending the magnificence of the soprano's aria increases our proficiency to hear the wide range of organized sound we encounter throughout our lives. Perceiving CZzanne's accomplishments in a painting of an ordinary house among trees can radically alter what you see on your daily drive to work. Responding to Shakespeare's King Henry the Fifth as he wanders all night, reflecting before the big battle, develops a wiser you to confront your next crisis.
But those occasional celebrated masterpieces are merely the tip of the artistic iceberg to which all of us, including many fine-but-not-famous artists, contribute less visibly and far more frequently. When we assume that the work of art exists only in these isolated peaks, we shrug off our birthright. Human bodies do wonderful things all the time, not just when the dance company Pilobolus performs, not just for a few days every two years at the Olympics. We all have human voices, and even though they are less developed than the diva's, they are rich in sonic subtlety that we ply in many ways. We live in an abundant playhouse of sound that rewards the best hearing we can apply. We need to attend to the artistic experiences throughout our lives, not just at ticketed events. In doing so, we reclaim many dwindling passions; we awake dormant skills with which to construct good answers to life's hardest questions.
We all have a natural knowledge of the processes and perspectives that artists use, even if we have not focused our efforts on developing these skills the way artists have. Yes, maybe you sing like a squawking crow, and you might think contrapposto is an Italian side dish; but you certainly have expertise about what sounds and tastes and feels good. You may not be trained for center stage leaping, but you have made many beautiful things with that body of yours, like dives into the deep end and waltzes on the dancefloor or charades clues and wedding choreography. You have entertained others by performing clever impersonations. You've played red light/green light. You've made love.
You are also, I'm sure, intimately aware of choreography in the world: on the street, on the playing field. You get annoyed when someone bungles their role on the dancefloor of the sidewalk by crossing in front of you, or in the reception hall by stealing your spotlight, or on the gridiron by missing a block on a tailback sweep. You appreciate the balletic steps of the furniture movers as they maneuver your dining room set or of your spouse chopping vegetables in the kitchen. You said of the Japanese chef's preparation of teriyaki at your table, and of the carpenter's work on your cabinets: It was a work of art.
Even those famous artists want you as a creative peer. Here is a secret truth they might not tell you--they really seek colleagues, but settle for admirers. Alvin Ailey and George Balanchine would rather have had the choreographically competent you than the venerating follower who paid to sit in row G.
You have all the necessary background. To engage fully in the work of art, all you really need are the skills you already have, the birthright you were given, and the perspectives and practices this book will remind you about.