"Treat Life like Art..." / by Jeannine Cook

Maya Angelou wrote that we should "treat life like art... " and to "remember that we are all created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed". I had been going to write about the interconnection of life and the visual arts, but as I was opening up this blog site, I began reading Tyler Green's entries in Modern Art Notes about Considering Torture through Art and Bruce Nauman's Double Steel Cage Piece. It seemed an ironic reversal of what Maya Angelou said. The recent and increasing discussions about the Bush-era issues of torture and abuse remind one that many people do not, in any way, see life as potentially beautiful or noble or even ethical. As Tyler Green said correctly, artists are among the few people who can address such issues as torture since they are "independent contractors", able to "embrace ambiguity rather than reject it" and address it through art.

Not all of us, as artists, feel equipped to tackle such important and weighty subjects, but thank goodness there are many who are the conscience of a society. However, I also feel that each artist is particularly passionate about some important issue and thus will marry life and art as eloquently as possible. In my case, it is the natural world and the need to respect and care for it that move me.

To that end, often, I find that the choice of what I paint or draw is, consciously or subconsciously, guided by environmental concerns and observations. Even when one works plein air, there is a constant "invention of new scenarios" by pruning and editing of the scene in front of one to achieve better the desired effect. Life and art are so closely allied that it is hard to separate them out and the art of living, or living for art, are both full time occupations, requiring practice and thought, a code of conduct and a very necessary sense of humour. As Ms. Angelou reminds us, there is always that gift too - the option of inventing new scenarios, in our own lives, or on canvas or paper - an option to grow as an artist, as a person. She also said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." A good thought for an artist to remember!