Art is the great leveler. It doesn’t matter how high your IQ is, how pretty you are or aren’t. Your weight isn’t a factor, nor is your popularity or station in life. You can’t be too good for it and it can’t be too good for you. Art is expression. Art is the most human thing a human can do and that can be boiled down from a broad generalization to something as specific as: it’s the most Levi thing Levi can do. Art is a glimpse of its creator and (when it’s true) only it’s creator can create it. It’s subjective in nature, what I draw may not be what you take in, your experiences and perspective may change the original and intended meaning but that only adds to its beauty and wonder. Art is not a part of the human experience; art IS the human experience: a whirlwind of hope, angst, anger, hatred, happiness, faith, fear, and love all assigned a hue and a home on a canvas or, for me, primarily skin. That’s why I tattoo. I am putting pigment into your skin, but in essence, I’m cultivating the human in you, into one mark that speaks with all those colors and emotions.
Maybe I’m reading into it, but let’s start at the beginning. I’ve already stated that I believe art is subjective, therefore my definition is just as subjective as anything I create -what I take from it versus what I give. So my opinion that art is the great leveler -it can’t be dictated by class, or personal attributes- probably could speak volumes about personality. I say this because I hate everything about myself…I hate my ignorance & my weight. I hate how I look and I hate the thought of myself standing in a crowded room or getting onto an airplane; taking up well more than my allotted space, breathing annoyingly loud and sweating way too much. The self-loathing doesn’t stop there, but I digress because that isn’t what this is about. Despite everything I dislike about myself, I can still learn about & produce art.
In producing art, I’ve learned to appreciate myself more. I don’t hate myself less, but I do appreciate the self-deprecation and baggage I carry as a part of my being. That is a part of my “voice”, if you will. Small changes in those variables would lead to subtle or huge variations in my outlook. Being aware of that is a bit of a motivator, because that sense of alienation that I felt growing up has become a strange sense of uniqueness that I crave as an artist. It’s not the uniqueness I would’ve chosen, but it is mine and it’s up to me what I do with it.
I’m not athletic and I don’t consider myself to be a philosopher, as much as I wish I was. Art doesn’t need you to be anything but who you are. All it wants is your perspective on the world, your vision and experience. Fat, skinny, tall, short, handicapped, or just the most average of average, you can show the world how you perceive it or feel about it. Art, in itself, is unbiased and non-judgmental and only wants to hear what you have to say. Your perspective is the the actual art; over time you hone your ability to produce your perspective. You cultivate your technique down to a personal formula and make it even more dynamic which then, in turn, starts to shape your perspective. It’s a beautiful and endless cycle that keeps the brain moving and reassessing the same thought processes, instead of just addressing them once and moving on with the belief that it’s been exhausted.
Art is expression, and the way humans express themselves is completely different than the way any other creature expresses itself. From there you could think that Americans might generally express themselves differently than Italians, so on and so forth all the way down to the individual. I’d like to point out that this is one of my favorite thought processes; I spend a lot of time thinking about it, because by my personal experience, art is the most important development of humanity… Science is so important to us, and I promise I’m not denying it’s importance or overlooking it’s daily applications that we can easily take for granted. In so many ways art and science overlap and that can be discussed for days on end. But, please, just allow yourself to be open to a new idea and play with me.
Science is the study of the structure and behavior of the natural world. That world exists no matter what our understanding of it is. Whether or not we attribute it to a god or natural forces, it behaves the same way. I think our pursuit of knowledge is what makes us amazing as a species. That goes for science and art. Now, with that said, the human eye works completely different than the eye of a peacock or the eye of a dog, coupled with they way our brains process the information, it’s easy to assume that human art would be completely different than art made by any other known or unknown species on this planet. That is what I mean when I say it’s the most human thing we can do. People often wonder if we all see color the same way -if what I see as red is exactly what you see as red- when you ponder about that, you can really start to understand how unique art can be down to the individual. It is universally appreciated but singularly produced.
We also perceive images -visual metaphors- completely differently. It’s all so subjective and relative. When I paint a girl in a pose that I find attractive, you my find it raunchy or inappropriate, or maybe even more attractive. If I paint a dead bird, it may seem trivial to you, or it could resonate deeply with you; that could also change depending on perspective or use of color. There are unending variables that make the image I’m trying to put down, different from the message that you’re picking up. That is so frustratingly beautiful of an idea to me. It really illustrates how different everyone can be based on the smallest of variations. I’d also like to point out, everything I’m talking about doesn’t specifically apply to painting or tattooing alone. It applies to poetry, music, dance, or writing in general. Any of the arts are completely relative and can symbolize completely different ideals to different people. The term “family values” would mean something completely different to a devout Christian family than it would to a homosexual family, but both would probably agree that “family values” were very important to them. It’s these varying views that make art as beautiful as it is, because it also makes life the wondrous and undefinable occurrence that it is. Art is life, on a small scale. In creating art we can be as gods, in my very humble and completely personal opinion. We define the rules, the message, the motion, the conflict, the sentiment, the contradictions, and the outcome. Our own outlooks dictate entire worlds and lives that we take from our imaginations and experiences and share to be adapted into another’s. It is both selfless and selfish in the same brush stroke and I feel so fucking humbled and empowered by it.
I create endlessly for the opportunity to gain more knowledge than I had the day before. When I take everything I learn and add it to my voice, there’s a small, barely existent possibility that maybe I’ll add something to the human experience. Maybe I’ll move someone and inspire them to add to it as well. It doesn’t get any more meaningful than that. I cannot perceive or derive a deeper meaning from life than ‘aspire to inspire inspiration’
In closing, art is something that is done for the sake of itself. It is a feeling that you turn into and idea that you then apply your knowledge to. It is invaluable and completely worthless at the same time. It is balanced and fair. It is one of the most human things we can and will ever do. It is a summation of our collective existence: a contradiction that constantly adapts for survival and purpose, unsure of which is more necessary. Art is all of us, trying to define what is important in a way that will resonate in those that come after us in the same way it passed to us from those who came before. Art is perspective and perspective is all we have…I hope you realize the uniqueness of your own.