Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When We Talk About Art

Whenever I sit down to write a book review, I get incredibly nervous. I want to be honest, reflect my opinions, use my own voice (vs. that obvious "I'm selling something to you!" writing voice sometimes we bloggers get into), be truthful to my readers, but also be respectful to the author. It's difficult to keep all of these things in balance and I'm trying to learn how to do it better. 

The difficult thing with books and any type of art form is that it is incredibly subjective.

It's also the totally awesome thing about art. It's subjective.

What will touch one persons heart is different from what will touch another person's heart. Which is why I think we need to be careful. Art is an incredibly personal thing.

When I was teaching a Sunday School class there were these two girl who (along with many other girls their age) absolutely LOVED One Direction. When they heard the group was going to be playing in St. Louis they cried in class. I felt as though I was always having to talk to the other students about how they shouldn't insult and make fun of these girls for this love.

I know boy bands and pop music aren't everyone's thing. There are other genres and groups which may be considered "better." But who is to judge this? If you love a band, or a song, or an album, it touches you for a reason. If someone insults this, it is almost as though they are insulting you as well.

Or I think about books. As my long-time readers know, The Night Circus is one of my all time favorite books. I absolutely adore this novel. When someone tells me they didn't like it, it makes me sad. While I know they can have their own opinion and not everyone has to enjoy the same types of novels, when you share something so special to you it's like giving part of your heart away.

A good friend of mine just read The Night Circus and I know she had a hard time with it at first. The first time she picked it up she couldn't get through it and it took some convincing for her to try again. She texted me this weekend saying she finally finished. It's not her personal favorite, but said it was worth the read and could see why I loved it so much.

It's part of why I love the Favorite Book Project I've been working through. People tell me their favorite book and I read it. Many of these are not genres or books I would normally pick up, but they are reflections of those who love them. The Grapes of Wrath was not my taste of books - but I could see my friend in it who said it was their favorite. I loved How I Paid for College, but even if I hadn't, I could totally see my friend who had recommended it in the pages.

Recently a friend from college asked me to read what she had written for NaNoWriMo and give her feedback on it. I'm so excited and honored she asked me to do so, but I'm also scared and taking my time. She wants me to be 100% brutally honest - and I absolutely want to. I also want to honor what she has written though because it's part of her heart

We need to be careful with people's hearts.

If someone told me there was a certain painting at the Art Institute which was their all time favorite I would insist we go and see this brilliant painting. While I'm not one to know much about paintings and sculptures, I would still want to understand why it was their favorite.

Art is such a personal thing. Movies, music, TV, books, plays, musicals, etc. Who is to say why someone connects with a certain character or movie? It isn't right or wrong for someone to love something.

There is absolutely room for critique and reviews of art. We need it because that is how it grows and changes and becomes better. One could even argue there is "bad" art - although this opinion may change depending on who you are talking to.

However, I do feel we need to be careful about when we do said critiquing and reviewing. Something may not be our personal taste, but it could be someone else's favorite.


  1. So true. One of my mantras lately has been "promote what you love, instead of bashing what you hate." I can't remember where I heard it, but it's been running through my mind a lot these past few weeks. Instead of bashing something someone else likes, whether or not I agree, I'm trying to work hard to respect their opinions (including asking *why*- that can completely change my own viewpoint) and simply offer a "Well, not my cup of tea but whatever works best for you." It's important to remember there can't be a definitive right or wrong when it comes to art, just different preferences.

  2. This is so great! It's so easy to criticize something, but it takes a lot more to truly analyze something.

  3. All of this, yes, so much yes! I always feel weird reviewing stuff, especially if I didn't like it as much but then I try to explain why I didn't like it. And I think it's a bloggers prerogative to be a little subjective about it. Everybody has different interests and different points of experience from where they're coming so it's natural to have different opinions. What I think is important is to not be mean about something. One can always disagree but you don't have to diminish other people's feelings because of that.


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