I frequently bemoan my lack of artistic ability. Maybe, and just maybe, I could learn to be a good writer. But all other talents elude me. I feel I have the soul of an artist, but have no musical ability. I cannot sing. I can’t paint, or draw. I cannot find my way around a camera, except the one on my cell phone, and learning to use that was a monumental discovery. I place things in my home because I think they “go there,” not because I have any understanding of line or color. I have never been nor will I ever be known as a graceful and expressive dancer. So, yes, no false modesty, I definitely have nothing in the way of artistic competencies.
In a late-into-the-night conversation with my brother-in-law at our family summer house, he passed along some wisdom that he had received . In a similar conversation he had had with a friend , his friend had said “Someone has to applaud.” Real artists may create with no eye at all toward a future audience, but applause often comes anyway. Handclapping, standing ovations, positive reviews, a simple nod of appreciation. Someone stopping, moving back step by step in front of a painting, looking, and looking some more. A hand reaching out and stopping just short of touching a sculpture. A shouted brava! to the finest performer on the stage. A moment that you get to share in the artistic vision by being the one who not only sees/hears/feels but appreciates.
I have had formidable moments of appreciation. During one trip to Paris, my husband and I went to the Grand Palais to see Leviathan, an exhibit by Anish Kapoor (better known in the US for the “bean” sculpture in Chicago). We were so intrigued that we sought out a gallery with a smaller exhibit by Kapoor that had garnered almost no attention. It is beyond me to find an adequate vocabulary to describe clearly the art in that gallery; it is equally impossible to express the enormity of the feelings and reactions I experienced in immersing myself in Kapoor’s creations.
Great art experiences are expected if not required in Paris. But I experience them in more quotidien settings too. I listen to British tenor Alfie Boe on my way to work every morning. There are notes that he sings that land on my ear in a way that grabs every fiber of my attention. The same for Leonard Cohen’s lyrics. Judi Dench’s acting in practically anything. A painting by my friend Jo Tate of a woman in green that smacks me upside the head with its confidence every time I look at it.
I am envious of the ability to create like that, and resigned that even in retirement with time to dabble, I will never be an artist. My role is to receive. I am a profound appreciator, and that appreciation gives me great joy. Someone has to have the job of noticing, understanding, and recognizing. That job is mine. Assuming you are lacking in artistic talent, it could be your job too.