Coastal Georgia

Art - an opportunity for reflection by Jeannine Cook

I had donated artwork to The Art Connection in Boston ( so that they can find nonprofits who cannot afford art for their walls but need the uplifting messages art can provide. Their spring/summer newsletter states, "Art offers an opportunity for reflection and inspiration. It can change a mood, increase morale, stimulate dialogue and build community." As I reflected on that statement, I realised that I frequently see the truth of it in the world all around me, as I am sure many others do too.

It does not take the present economic woes to underline the real value placed by people of all works of life in art - be they seasoned collectors or simply lovers of art. There have been enough studies done now to show the role art can play in helping people under stress, in hospital environments, for example. Years ago, a large painting of mine was placed on a wall opposite the elevator door on the ICU floor of the local hospital. One day, a dear friend phoned to say that when he had got to that floor one early morning of family drama, he saw my painting as he got out of the elevator. "I can't tell you how much it helped calm me down," he confided. I was deeply moved.

Moon over the Marsh, watercolour, Jeannine Cook artist

Moon over the Marsh, watercolour, Jeannine Cook artist

Coincidentally, a solo exhibition of my work, A Sense of Place, has just opened at the same Southeast Georgia Health System Outpatient Care Center Art Gallery in Brunswick, Georgia. Again, I am told, this gallery is constantly the scene of someone studying the art on display, collecting themselves and finding a short respite from the stresses usually connected with hospital scenes. By selecting watercolours, silverpoint and graphite drawings of local areas of beauty and serenity, I hope to remind the viewers of the wider world beyond. (Moon over the Marshes - watercolour)

The role of art as stimulating dialogue is always visible in communities where art has become an important ingredient in daily life. I read recently how many towns in the Rust Belt region are turning to art to try and revitalise their downtown areas which are so abandoned. Artists are like the yeast in bread, helping stimulate activities in empty buildings which cry out for new life and fresh starts. There is always something to discuss, too, when art is created or on display. Even the simple act of standing in front of a piece of art or listening to music or theatre - whatever - alongside a stranger seems to give one licence to address that person and start a dialogue. As a matter of fact, I met one of my now-dearest friends because I said something to her as we stood in front of a painting in a museum and we started talking. That's the magic of art! It empowers us all and takes us out of ourselves.

"Art should be a rebellion" by Jeannine Cook

The wonderful Lebanese bard, Marcel Khalife, was interviewed in late February on PBS by Jeffrey Brown during the Newshour ( about his music and life. Khalife evoked the song he sings, Passport, which uses the words of a haunting poem by the late extraordinary Middle Eastern poet, Mahmoud Dawish. The gist of what he said at one point was that art should be a rebellion, and it should not submit to ordinary life.

Perhaps one of the problems people have with the concept of beauty in art, (see my blog entry of 22.2.2009) is that often art implicitly challenges comfortable assumptions we have about our world and our opinions. A large percentage of artwork, in all media, is overtly or covertly rebellious. Politics, social customs, economic situations - a whole host of issues is addressed by artists in their work. If one is even vaguely aware that there are "subversive" messages in the art, one's opinion can thus possibly be coloured as to whether the art is beautiful or not.

An Act of Rebellion

An Act of Rebellion

Not submitting to "ordinary life", challenging the status quo, can take many forms in art. Even using art, as I often do, to draw attention to our collective potential loss when fragile and often beautiful environments are destroyed, is a certain form of resistance. Coastal Georgia is frequently under assault from "development" and so-called "progress"; any challenge to the notion that destroying places for personal enrichment is perfectly acceptable can be seen as rebellion. Every artist finds issues about which passions are stirred - those issues become that artist's personal rebellion. Society needs lots of artists - their rebellions are ultimately our collective conscience.