Have you ever wondered why our earliest ancestors painted murals on the walls and ceilings of caves? Who was going to see the images? Why go through all of that work of setting up wooden scaffolding, preparing pigments from scarce raw materials and making torches from the scant resources available? This was in the day when the next meal was no sure thing and your life could come to a swift and terrible end at any moment (warring clans; disease; accidental injuries; mammoths; saber tooth tigers; blizzards). So why invest precious survival time in art?
The experts have divined the following scenarios: placating the spirits of game animals in order to ensure a good hunt; a religious rite paying tribute to the deities of animals and nature; territorial markers claiming hunting and clan territory; or merely documenting for posterity a great hunt. In other words, the experts don’t have a clue. The art remains a mystery.
Perhaps the answer lies in observing ourselves. People are drawn to observing art and to making art. Place a room full of children next to a pile of paper and crayons and they will soon be drawing and coloring. What do they draw? Mom and Dad. Friends. Play. Trees and animals. Things that they are afraid of. Special holidays. Snowmen, reindeer, pine trees, sliding. Butterflies and flowers. Frogs. The sun, rainbows, jump ropes. Their home.
Is there a greater pattern in this art? Like cave art, it’s a mystery. Some things we know are true – if art did not mean something elemental, why would people stop to study it? Why would they have the compulsion or desire to create it? The beauty of art is that it stands the test of time. The cave art is wonderful, whatever the intent of the artist. Our children’s art is wonderful, no matter the scope of their talent.
As an energy advisor for community action, I go into four or five houses across four central Minnesota counties every week, and I always look at the photos and paintings on the walls. I am drawn to them. They reveal multitudes about the residents and what’s important for them. Their art is a mirror – a window into their deepest thoughts.
Just last week I visited an older client who lived by herself, and who occupied her time with art. She had quite a set-up by her favorite arm chair. There was a desk top table that rolled over her chair, with a work surface and tray for her supplies. A dozen cylindrical holders harbored a myriad of colored pencils and ink pens. This represented her time-tested stash, obviously selected with great diligence. I marveled at the collection. Then I asked, “What do you like to draw?” She pointed behind me, to the living room wall. There a dozen framed pictures were neatly displayed. Each was exquisitely rendered – scenes of flowers, birds, owls and many other creatures. I asked, “Do you sell your art?” She gave me a puzzled look, and replied, “No, I just do my art for the love of drawing.”
And maybe that’s the answer. Our ancestors and our children may do their art for love’s sake.
Energy tips for January
Install a ceiling fan. It’s the cheapest way to move heat and also provide summer cooling. At night, close your curtains; when the sun shines, open the blinds and curtains. Use CFL and LED light bulbs. Install cheap weather-stripping kits behind your wall outlet covers. Cover windows with plastic, or caulk the cracks with strip-away caulking. Install weather-stripping around your attic access hatch. And don’t forget to call Tri-CAP and check out all of our energy saving programs.
January 2017 Blog
Written by: Stephen Bjorklund