The Transformative Power of Art

What Makes Art Special?

In my last post I expounded on how decor and art, while they overlap sometimes, are not automatically the same thing.  Today, I am going to look at a few quotes that seem to expound on what makes art special as compared to a scarf or a piece of wallpaper that was put in frame, and looks quite visually appealing, but is not art.


Art Changes Us

“What makes people the world over stand in line for Van Gogh is not that they will see beautiful pictures but that in an indefinable way they will come away feeling better human beings. And that is exactly what Van Gogh hoped for.” John Russell

While a pretty scarf from your local department store may look beautiful in a frame, may catch the eye, and complement the rest of your decor perfectly it isn’t going to dramatically improve your understanding of the human condition, or move you with sympathy for the downtrodden, or open your eyes to the oppressive nature of some powers-that-be,  Much art, on the other hand, does do these things.

While a piece of wallpaper wrapped around a canvas might accent your carpet and furnishings perfectly, and look stylish and chic, it isn’t likely to make you stand in awe at the beauty of nature and contemplate its origins, or impress you with thoughts of the vastness of the universe and the smallness of humankind. Van Gogh’s Starry Night has been known to elicit these responses in many though.

That is also what I meant when I said that the statement that Duchamp made with his “Fountaine” was more artistic than the piece itself.  He sat out to make a statement about the art establishment, he wanted us to ask the question, “What is art?” by showing us something that definitely was NOT, but that was presented as such.  At that he succeeded.  He showed us non-art presented as if it was art, and therefore forced the art world to examine its definition of art.


Art is (At Least somewhat) Unique

“Someone who copies a Van Gogh does not therefore become Van Gogh, and the same would go for Mozart or anyone else who contributed something that was original.” Daniel Tammet

Art will have some uniqueness to it.That isn’t to say of course that art is always completely original, almost all art is a remix of previously used styles or concepts, but it is at least a unique remix, rather than a facsimile. Even if it is inspired by another’s work, and even if it borrows some theme or element of style from an earlier artist, it will show some unique interpretation of that work.  Van Gogh painted many works that were based on the work of other artists, but never did he try to do an exact copy, he always brought his own unique vision and style of brushstroke to it.

In a similar way, I sometimes borrow elements of a style or composition from Van Gogh, but I inject my own elements, subject matter, and style to it as well. While I could probably produce a decent reproduction of Starry Night, if I did so I would only offer it as a reproduction, I’d never try to claim it as wholly my own art.

Can someone learn to reproduce almost exactly the work of another? Yes, but that is, in my opinion, not true art. It can be a good skill building exercise, but it never reaches the same level as a unique piece will. Reproductions have their place, as learning tools, and as decor, but they have a different status from true, original compositions, from true art.

Art is Driven by Passion

“I love what Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Jesus all said – that love is really the driving principle of the creative act. In fact, they would say that great art is always inspired by love.” Erwin McManus

Art is driven by passion, the quote above says it is love, and perhaps in a sense that is true.  It may be driven by anger, by frustration, by sadness, or by joy, but what, other than love elicits all these emotions so passionately?  When one is angry it is usually because something that person loves and values has been in some way violated.  It may be their love of justice or humankind or the environment, the same could be said of frustration or sadness, even these negative emotions are usually brought about because something or someone we love has either been violated or has let us down in some way.

Regardless, all art is driven by passion, while framing a scarf is probably driven more by a sense of style.

Van Gogh quote on love.
While all art is motivated by passion or love for something, perhaps love for other people is the most noble driving force behind creating art. In fact, according to Van Gogh, the act of loving people is itself artistic.


So, art goes beyond just looking pretty and moves into the realm of passion, originality, and transformation… and that is why is transcends simple decor.

Art transcends decor, art is passion, originality, and transformation. Click To Tweet

6 Responses to The Transformative Power of Art

  1. I agree with your assessment of art. It is not mere decoration. It is creation and story and passion and love and so much more. It is feeling that brings art to life. Hence, the mass produced cannot be art.

  2. So, while I agree with your statements in general, there is much art that fails to provide such enjoyment.
    My home is replete with art that provides me hours of enjoyment.

    • Yes, though I think that even if something doesn’t bring enjoyment to one person, it still may to another. Also, it doesn’t always have to be pleasant to improve our understanding of the human condition or increase our awareness of injustices. Sometimes art sets out to reveal uncomfortable and unpleasant realities, but still causes you to think deeper or to feel what you otherwise wouldn’t, so it is still art. Then again, there’s also crap 💩 masquerading as art too! 😂 lol!

  3. I’m sorry, but putting a scarf, or a piece of fabric, in a frame is not art. It is décor. Art makes you feel, something. I have a picture (oil I think) that my husband bought at an auction. It reminded me of where I lived when in high school. Yes, a photo would remind me of that time and place, but this painting transports me back to that time. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Thanks also for the redirect to here. I’m no artist, but I love hearing about art. Thanks for sharing.