“Art is the lie that enables us
to realize the truth.”
Since the death of Sean Connery a few weeks back, I’ve been rewatching all of the James Bond movies in chronological order. I noticed that the majority of the Bond movies were distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. I’ve been watching MGM movies my entire life but just now noticed the words, “Ars Gratia Artis” used as a motto by MGM and appears in the circle around the roaring head of Leo the Lion in its logo.
Curious lady that I am, I looked up the meaning of this Latin saying, Ars Gratia Artis which translates to, Art for Art’s Sake. It is a phrase that dates back to poet Théophile Gautier from the 1800s. The phrase was also used by poet Edgar Allan Poe in his 1850 essay, The Poetic Principle. These men argued that “. . . art for art’s sake affirmed that art was valuable as art in itself; that artistic pursuits were their own justification; and that art did not need moral justification, and was allowed to be morally neutral or subversive.”
With so many forms of art in our society, I dove even deeper into this subject and discovered writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton who is the founder of The School of Life, where he examines the many purposes of art.
In Alain’s book, Art as Therapy he points out how art can be a form and a source of therapy and self-help. He explains how art has the ability to resolve our psychological shortcomings and ease our anxieties about our imperfections. Art can be used as a great tool that serves a complex important purpose in our existence. The highest achievement of art might be something that reconciles the two: a channel of empathy into our own psychology that lets us both exorcise and better understand our emotions.
There are many areas in our life that art enriches including how art helps us feel less alone in our suffering. de Botton believes art can also save us time as well as save our lives, through opportune and reminders of balance and goodness that we should never presume we know enough about already. He also says that art is our new religion and our museums are our cathedrals. We all have reasons for our tastes in particular works of art and that can reflect how we are feeling emotionally at particular times in our lives.
Art gives us a language for communicating to others. It can explain why we are so particular about the kinds of art we surround ourselves with publicly. A sort of self-packaging we all practice as much on the walls of our homes as we do on our social media pages. A cynic might interpret this as mere showing off, but de Botton believes that the art we admire peels away this superficial interpretation to reveal the deeper psychological motive.
The art we admire can show our true desire to communicate to others the subtleties of who we are and what we believe in a way that words cannot express.