Notes for a 20-Minute Talk • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Beach Lake, Pennsylvania • Sunday morning, September 17, 2017
Why I Make Art
• I grew up in a home with little conversation or discussion leading to higher thoughts. I found at an early age that making art was my way to communicate how I encounter the world. Art gave me the identity I was seeking.
I love the garden as metaphor for art. Creating and tending a garden allows the gardener to design a personal world of beauty shared with others that is ideally set apart from the unruly natural world and human activity.
What artists do is much the same.
As an artist, I choose my materials that best express what I am trying to say. Then I order the elements I am expressing in a composition, a chosen space that takes on a life of its own with its proportions ideal to me.
Composition is my vehicle for communication and expression. It is a visual language that contains its own grammar and has limitless possibilities of discovery. I think of composition as metaphor.
If an artwork is communicating to you it is because the parts of its non-verbal language are located exactly where they must be in the composition. That is thrilling.
Another reason I make art is because I found that it talks back to me to tell me who I am. It involves risk-taking, exercises in trust and leads to self-knowledge and -discovery. It has made me a lover of history for all that other humans have accomplished and that I wish to be a part of.
The greatest part of that history is in learning with limitless respect and awe about the masters in all the arts and in training in their tools for anatomy, materials, composition and expression.
Making art in today’s world has attuned me to all that has gone before me and that is happening now and challenging me for a way to express how I feel about it visually
As a man I think a lot about the vulnerability of men, about how that vulnerability, so human an attribute, so much in our nature, leads that large part of the human race to mask it with gestures, expressions and behavior of anger, dominance and cruelty.
My little men, alone in the surrounding dark and storm, fearful in nature, cling to the magical screen as if it promises warmth, light and the comfort of faraway others but offers coldness, blankness , aloneness and loss.
Yet contradictions abound, so the little device is smart and beautiful in its design and technology and is full of hope in what it promises and might offer if all men, big and little, if all humankind, cause the light to illuminate and enlighten and replace threat with awe and beauty.
I know as an artist that art has no answers but rather asks questions about the life and world we share.
My magical screen is the space of the picture plane where my art asks the questions with my own gestures and expressions of fulfillment and joy.
John Tomlinson, artist, Lumberland, New York, 2020
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