THE POWER OF ART
BY JESSIE TOWLE
A few years ago, I found myself waiting on a surprisingly (to me) long line to enter the Accademia Gallery of Florence. I was in Italy for the food and wine. Many people questioned my decision to gallivant through Europe when I did not long to see the famous churches or paintings. Their perplexed looks and judgmental scrunched faces fed my complex that I always had about art — that I did not belong in that world. So I questioned my decision to get up early and visit the famed gallery as I stood on those hard cobble stones in the Italian summer heat waiting for it to open. I was there because people told me I had to see the Accademia Gallery of Florence. I was simply crossing an item off a list.
I readied my Rick Steves audio guide as the doors opened since I would clearly be lost without some kind of guidance. His clear directions told me to turn left and look right. There, at the end of a long hall of statues, stood David. Rick Steves faded away in my ears as the hairs on my arms stood and tears built in my eyes. The deep, emotional response transcended all preconceived notions. In that moment, in that hall, surrounded by Michelangelo's unfinished marble statues, I was connected to a part of myself that I had denied since childhood.
I stood there for quite some time letting the overwhelming power of David wash over me.
Rick Steves eventually led me through the finer points to appreciate about the statue and tidbits about its history, but it turned out I didn’t need him. This moment was more about the connection I felt than the marble Michelangelo used or the damaged toes on the left foot.
Art is often put on this almost unattainable pedestal. There is the classical training and raw talent that generates an almost elitist wall around it leaving us “right-minded”,
“non-art” folks to just shrug as we walk the perimeter. Technical skill is to be admired, but coupling that with passion and vision has the power to shift a person’s center. That moment looking at David gave me a deeper understanding of myself. It broke down
the walls of what I believed surrounded art and the walls of who I thought I should be.Maybe an Ansel Adams photograph or Banksy street art or a painting discovered at street fair would stir those same shifts in another person. The fact is there is an artist in all of us in some form hoping to connect to something outside of ourselves.
Artists are brave enough to pour their souls into their work. It’s an active decision to share a piece of themselves with others. Their free expression allows strangers to recognize a part of themselves in another as well. It doesn’t matter if anyone else sees it. Your soul sees it. The ego fades letting the heart and the mind open.
The truth is that art has the power to break down walls, and allow us to feel more understood, seen and connected as the creator and the viewer alike.