Does art matter? | Guest column

Nancy Bingham

By Dennis Ryan

for the 19th Annual Lopez Island Studio Tour


The artists showed up at the Lopez Center, at 10:30 am, with their works to be displayed in the Lopez Island Studio Tour Preview Gallery. Most were old friends with a history in the arts on Lopez Island, but several were relative newcomers. With the 19th annual Labor Day Weekend Studio Tour just 10 days away, there was a discernable level of hurriedness – lots yet to do – combined with a bit of relief – taking time out to drop off the artwork and see what others have been up to. The new artists mingled easily with the old guard as discussions of technique, or discovery, or to-do lists unfolded. The quality of respect was universally evident, no matter what the artist’s medium was or their level of achievement and recognition. In this brief window – a chaotic setting of Lopez artists going about their lives – it was easy to discern the question that often hangs around art and artists: does art matter?

If you don’t feel like engaging the question on your own, search the question on any device and many responses appear. The National Endowment for the Arts has a running blog on it – smart strategy! Collections of quotations abound and for purposes of getting going on the question, they are useful. Here’s a selection below that might get you started. Once you are on a roll, take your findings with you on the Studio Tour and talk with some of our artists. Compare notes. Be as serious as you wish, or be not serious at all. 42 artists in 28 studios; lots of opportunity and choices.

The Tour is Saturday September 5th, 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, September 6th, 10 am to 4pm. The Tour’s Opening Reception is on Friday, September 4th from 5 – 7 pm. Enjoy some Lopez wines and finger foods, meet the artists, and review works in the Preview Gallery in Lopez Center. Perhaps you will come to an understanding with yourself on the question, does art matter?

What is art but a way of seeing?’ Thomas Berger

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” Kurt Vonnegut

I long ago came to the conclusion that even if I could put down accurately the thing I saw and enjoyed, it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at—not copy it.” Georgia O’Keeffe

The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.” Vincent van Gogh

Art is not a thing; it is a way.” Elbert Hubbard

Art matters not merely because it is the most magnificent ornament and the most nearly unfailing occupation of our lives, but because it is life itself.Randall Jarrell

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.  Making your unknown known is the important thing.” Georgia O’Keeffe

There is no must in art because art is free.” Wassily Kandinsky

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr Suess

I invent nothing, I rediscover.” Auguste Rodin

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

Beauty, in whatever form it takes, soothes the soul. Barely a month before he died in Dallas, John F. Kennedy said: ‘We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth’” Mary Boone, Huff Post in 2009

How can art not matter?” Jeff Berryman, at the end of his piece Why Art Matters: Rebellion, Beauty, Life

Indeed! See you on the Tour.