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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Writing as Art

I've been thinking a lot about "art" lately. I visit a lot of blogs and websites that include amazing art -- some is collage, photography, painting. I enjoy seeing eloquent sculpture and I find great beauty in the clean lines of pottery, furniture, or tapestry. But "art" is often attached to the visual and we sometimes forget that it is more than that. When I went to do art with my friend Kate after Christmas, part of our time was made felting (or trying to felt) beads. Some would call it craft. After trying, I think those who do it well are mastering an art!

When Rick plays his classical guitar, he is working on his art. When we attend (as we did last weekend) an amazing concert of mostly showtunes performed by an excellent ensemble, we were experiencing art. And it may have been broad art, but when I enjoyed "Spamalot," I was seeing comedy and timing as great art.

We think of great novels as "art." And poetry or Shakespeare. It's art.

But writing? Our penmanship?

A few days ago I posted about Japan and a correspondence from our friend Kumiko-san, who used to live in Lansing. She recently shared with me some of her beautiful calligraphy, which has appeared in several exhibitions in Japan.

This is writing. I'm not sure what it says (I'll have to ask Kumiko!) But it has a meaning. And yet I defy anyone to say something so beautiful, so eloquent, so bold is anything but art.


It makes me think about elementary school. Did you have the charts of the alphabet over the blackboard? A cursive "Q" looked like a "2" (does anyone write "Q" that way anymore?) Pity the child (like me) who was lefthanded and whose writing slanted off to the "wrong" side. They broke me of that! When I re-read my parents' letters, they are written so legibly and almost the same. And my grandparents. In their generation writing -- the act of writing -- was art.

Something to think about. As I look at Kumiko's work -- and that of another favorite calligrapher, Patty Monroe-Mohrenweisen -- I realize this may never be an art I can do well. But it is certainly one I deeply admire.

3 comments:

Artsy Etc. said...

love your thoughts. art takes many forms. i love calligraphy and do it myself. thanks for sharing!

Beth said...

I tell my hubby that all the time. He is such a great carpenter along with be a excellent Engineer. But the way he builds wonderful projects for our house, is to me, a great form of art. ARt has many faces and many languages!
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoo

Mike said...

Writing is certainly art. Words are like paints used to create pictures in the mind.

Not only is the narrative of writing a form of art but typography--the intentional and creative use of letterforms is also art. People too often overlook the nuance, and beauty of fine type design. Compare Caslon 540 with the workhorse Times Roman or the subtlety of Optima. The typeface chosen, and its staging--the kerning, leading and size relations have as much to do with the message of the text as what the words actually say. Yes writing, and typography is all about Art--both aesthetic and the art of communication.

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