To a large extent, as adults we have already learned most of life's lessons . For example, we already know to treat others as we want to be treated; that when you say you will do something, you should honor your word and do it; that we should commit random acts of kindness anonymously. The list goes on and on. We have been taught these notions most of our lives.
But why is it when we go out into the world, we forget many of these ideals so quickly?
Although I do not have the answer, I do know that art can have huge impact in keeping us true to life’s golden rules.
Art functions like church. When you go to church, you may hear a sermon that hits you over the head with a message you already know, but have not heard in such a poignant way.
Strong art, especially contemporary art with social commentary, offers messages that are often cliché, but with a fresh or unique perspective. Art provides messages about life that can force you to rethink how you live your life and how you treat others.
I am finishing a new work about humanity which I hope will demonstrate this. For example, we all wear drag in some form. I wear preppy clothes; my friend, John, wears tight spandex (ewwww!); a bear friend of mine wears t-shirts and cargo pants; and my buddy, Clint, is a drag queen. We all tend to wear what feels good to us, and what will allow us to fit into our group of friends.
In this particular art piece, I have images of firemen, bartenders, “A-List” gays, pregnant women, newlyweds, doctors, drag queens, bears, cubs, otters . . . there are some 300 images of all kinds of people.
So essentially aren't we all in some form of drag—some kind of shell that both protects us from and integrates us into our worlds. Are we being authentic in choosing the shells that we wear? Or are we putting on clothes, doing our hair, and wearing makeup that we think will look good to those around us? Or do we choose jobs, like the fireman or policeman, that allow us to perform a role that is comfortable to us?
Art can force us to at least ask the right questions. What we get from art is hopefully some awareness not only about what is going on around us, but also about what is going on inside our own heads. This is the power of art.