Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Do We Need Art?

One of my art therapy clients can no longer create art with her hands so we read and discuss various art books together. Today we learned about an amazing woman.

Ellen Dissanayake who synthesized art history, anthropology, psychology, and ethology and came up with a paradigm-changing theory: Art-making evolved as a behavior that contained advantages for human survival - and those advantages went far beyond what Charles Darwin ever imagined.

In the late 1960's art was still defined mostly in terms of objects, beauty and the experience of the viewer, reader or listener. Ellen considered not the viewer but the creator. She defined art as a behavior and came up with a two-word phrase that captured the activity in its broadest permutations: "Making special." "We don't have a verb, 'to art,' but what are artists, dancers, poets doing?" she says. "They're taking the ordinary and making it special." In her book, Homo Aestheticus, she says making art gives us "the ability to shape and thereby exert some measure of control over the untidy material of every day life."

Definitely thought provoking!

We have decided to get a copy of her book "What Is Art For?" for our next reading.

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