ART AND SPIRITUALITY – Transformation Art
What is the relationship between Art and Spirituality – Transformation Art? We know there is one, but can we articulate it? An artist might say he is dedicated to his art. Does that connote spirituality? Is the art his spiritual path? Many would not take him seriously – yes, one honors the artist's choice to dedicate himself to art. But dedication to one's work does not necessarily a spiritual path make. Or does it? "I'm dedicated to my art." Pshaw, many would say, and, don't take it so seriously.
Besides, one knows very well that art cannot take the place of a divine Creator. Where is God in all this? For many dedicated artists, God does not exist, or at best his or her or its existence is in question. Are those artists spiritual? Can one be spiritual and not believe in a divine Creator? One can have character. One can have scruples and be a solid citizen. Is that spiritual? I would think so. But is it spirituality? Is it a spiritual path? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does dedication to a profession make a spiritual path? Not all artists are professionals. Making money has nothing to do with it. One might say that the professional artist has dedicated himself to art in the way a monk, priest, or nun has dedicated him or herself to God. Here one must look at the love of the profession as overriding the need to make money. Here, strangely or not so strangely enough, the profession of artist and that of the clergy collide. To have extraordinary passion for ones work: Is that not spiritual? But is it spirituality? And again, what about God?
What to do here: Define art and define spirituality and see if they have anything in common, see what they have in common and how closely they resemble each other. For this task, the widest definition of art would be desirable. And so for spirituality, the widest definition. I'll begin with art.
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Art is the embodiment of life, that which is real, that which contains the primary forces of consciousness: vision, essence, and flow. Anyone who embraces life can make art. That's what art is about: embracing life and making art of that. Artists are human, just like anyone else. They don't always embrace life. But in their art, they have learned how to. The art reflects where they have embraced life. "The path of the heart," to quote Castenada's Don Juan.
What is spirituality? It is the embracing of life. The spiritual path is the path that allows us to do that more and more. Art is the result of spirituality. Do you doubt this? Is the result of living a spiritual life that you are closer to God, more pious, more holy? Or is the result that you are more alive and real and full of consciousness? Faith, ritual, and acts of goodness and virtue contribute. But that in itself does not connote spirituality. We know very well that belief in God does not in itself make a saint. In some sad instances, it can propel a sinner to do much harm.
The true artist is one who cultivates a spiritual path, at least in his art. This is why artists feel such passion and devotion regarding their art: the creation of art becomes integral to the spirituality and spiritual path. While artists have their eye on the goal, or, one goal, which is to make art, others have their eye on living the spiritual life. They, too, I would maintain, produce art. It may or may not come in a marketable or tangible form. Nevertheless, it is there. To live a spiritual life is to live a creative life, a life that inevitably will produce art. Notice I said nothing about being religious. I said nothing about dogma. Religion is hollow without feeling, and feeling comes from the personal spiritual path, a path that can include religion but does not have to.
What I say here may seem a bit odd, to equate the spiritual person with the creative artist. Let us recall that in other cultures at other times, often it was the holy man or woman who created icons of worship and taught others how to experience the divine. I talk of the shamans of old, and of ancient priests and priestesses. In our present western culture we have removed a lot of juice from holy rituals, beliefs, customs, and from religion. This is a mistake. Spirituality and art are bound together. You can't have one without the other. Thus, those artists who do not listen to their soul and respond suffer. And spiritualists who deny their creativity also suffer. Art and spirituality are one.
Beau Smith is a professional multi-media artist who creates human-sized copper frogs. He also paints, writes, makes music, and designs for the web. His site is at Art and Spirituality – Transformation Art