While driving home from Bountiful last week, Carter and I got on a lovely debate between science and art. Why have art when you can have hard, concrete science? Why have something so loose, something you can interpret in so many different ways, when science can give you concrete, resolute evidence? When looking at a society, Carter says, look at their scientific achievement. That reflects who they are and who they have become across time. (Carter is concrete, scientific, mathematical. I come from a family of artists... so we don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to art 😉). But here’s my little argument for art.
Art may not be concrete. Two people depict the same city, story, or person in entirely different ways.  One may be nearly a perfect likeness, fooling the viewer to think it could be a photograph, while others are so stylized that the abstracted image is hardly recognizable. Why have such an imprecise art? Why not do science, where we can repeat experiments over and over to get the same results?
Because when we’re looking at people and cultures, there isn’t consistency of results. Yes, we have scientific laws. You through a ball up and it will come back down at a specific speed and velocity. We have mathematical laws where 2+2 will always equal 4. But if you ask two people to paint the experience, you will get two different perspectives.
One person may paint New York City as a flourishing spot of creativity, a place of excitement and adventure. Another may see it as filthy, loud, and polluted. Neither of these is wrong or inconsistent with reality. And that is what is so beautiful about art… it allows us to see into another’s reality. It gives a world of different perspectives.
Textbook information is no doubt useful. Reading about the history, seeing a map and pictures of the city may give us a decent understanding. But reality is much deeper than what the text book can tell us. Science can tell us how the forest grows, how energy is produced in photosynthesis, how the animals and the plant life work together. But it can’t tell the feeling as you stand in the middle of the forest- the curious way the light reflects through the trees, the spectacular shivering of the trees and the singing of the birds. But art makes an attempt to reflect this feeling. This is why I love the Impressionist movement. This movement began the road towards art that CAPTURED something. Something that a photograph alone couldn’t capture. They captured the light, the movement, the feeling around them at a specific and fleeting moment.

And no two renditions will be the same. Even if done at the same moment. No two people will see the subject in the exact same way.
A few years back, I realized how powerful art is in communicating across languages and cultures. There are many forms of art, some of them requiring words, others not. I love writing and literature, I love music. But sometimes words can be limiting. Not all can understand what is being communicated. But when words are left out, art speaks through what we see- something that is consistent across all cultures. I can study paintings by Albrecht Durer, and while I don’t speak any German, I can learn about who he was and the world he lived in. Art speaks a powerful language that is communicated across cultures and languages. It gives us the opportunity to understand just a bit more, to see the tiniest view from their perspective. It may not give us a perfect understanding of the times, culture, and experiences of the artist, but it gives something more than reading about it. What can give a more accurate portrayal of his view than his own rendition of that view?

Art expands our understanding of humanity, allowing us to realize that no one sees things quite the same way we do. No one sees it quite like I do.
Art reflects the history of man, both his beliefs and discoveries blended into a representation of who he and his society has become. While scientific discovery, and the history of that discovery may reflect his intellectual advancement, and the evolution of his society, art can reflect the EFFECTS and the POWER of that evolution. How it affects real people and their view on the world. How they view each other differently because of these circumstances.
Learning about history through art has increased my understanding and appreciation for history. It has helped me to understand who people are. Last semester I took a Northern Renaissance art history class. I realized how devoted to God and Christ these people were. I was enormously touched by their desire to become like Christ and pursue a likeness to him. I was profoundly struck by the powerful ways they demonstrated this devotion, and how they taught of Christ through their art. In history classes and such, I have always felt religious devotion during the time was purely political, and maybe much of it was. But seeing the devoted portrayals of some of these artists helped me to realize the religious devotion of many people during the time. They held some profound religious thought that even affected my perspective of Christ. Art helps us to better understand and LEARN from the people around us, but also those who lived centuries before us. It connects us all as a people trying to make sense of the world around us.


  1. Well said Heather! You are an amazing woman with great insights. Your words touched me, it is so true how art can speak directly to your heart, to our spirits. Thank you for sharing.


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