Art as it imitates life: a reflection on what art means to me.
The birthday edition
Today, I turn 23.
With every birthday comes a period of reflection on the past year, at least ever since COVID has taken over our lives it has become a checkpoint to look at a year that passed and the active role I have taken towards my growth as well as the passive factors that contributed to it. This year, I have this new platform and it only makes sense to elaborate on the catalyst of my growth, art.
Art has long been associated with me, by people of all degrees of association to me; from acquaintance to family. Not sure if any of those people questioned why I’ve held it so close to me for all those years but this post seems like the perfect post to speak on that.
Growing up, I have dabbled in drawing. I didn’t have a creative inclination or passion but I’ve had a wild imagination and access to colored pencils and coloring pages. I have also expressed a lot visually, but art was never the word I used to describe any of those endeavors; I did not come from a background that appreciated it in any capacity, so I never thought the term had any value beyond the dreaded mandatory art class.
School art classes were a pain, I have continuously been called untalented, with no potential, etc. That goes for most of my peers. Reflecting back on that, this completely goes against the subjective nature of art that makes us owners of the presented narrative so I really hope art classes are no longer as harsh. With all that being said, it took my friend’s comment on a teapot still life I made at 14 in art class to make that shift in me, I’d call it my closest brush with the butterfly effect; this was when I started to associate these small little things I’ve been doing as art and started my first art Instagram account to document my work.
When my father passed away when I was 15, I lost interest in everything going on in my life at the time, the only thing I kept from my past life was the art I was creating. I do not know why, maybe because it was the only thing I had control over in a chaotic life? Maybe because I felt seen? I’d lie if I were to tell you I knew.
Art was the reason I created community in a new place, having moved from Jeddah to Riyadh, and it keeps creating community around me. The Instagram account I created introduced me to the local art community, and now I am “the art person” everywhere (the art market person in art communities).
With that, art had me in a chokehold. My curiosity in all things art became an added value in conversations, and a reason for me to exchange stories with the people I interact with. It made other people I interacted with feel seen and heard, feel welcomed, and it was almost an act of worship in a sense having introduced me to a new way of seeing the world God has created around me. In a funny way, the reason I got really interested in venture capital was the zig-zagged way I tied it to the art market, and the reason I got interested in data analysis/AI was the artistic outputs I was exposed to in Artathon and how data, in also a zig-zagged way, made sense to me as another way to tell a story (which was the value I saw art bring to the table). Everything that got me fired up started in an artistic context and graduated to something more general or another niche, which sometimes worked out and other times didn’t.
What I am trying to say is, art was my motivator to get to know myself and seek community because it made me feel seen and I saw how other people got excited talking about the creations they enjoyed; whether that was music, film, fashion, visual arts or whatever creative medium they enjoyed participating in or appreciating as it made them feel understood to. It allowed us to own our narratives by creating a representation of a thought or live vicariously through the pieces that resonated with us. I would say the value it brings to the table exceeds whatever astronomical ticket price is placed on a painting or album masters because embraces your human condition and sparks dialogue around it, and your life is priceless.
I can go on and on, and this sounds really disorganized, but the fact that the human notion of creating is intrinsic and exists within all of us in one way or another is fascinating to me, and those of us who acknowledge it open up a door in their lives to see the stories exchanged in all their mediums and welcome their own reflection of the experiences they carry. I can never capture its value and can never capture my gratitude of this gift; the gift that introduced me to people I know call a family, and opportunities I never imagined for myself.
Talk to me about art, and by that I mean tell me your story, because we are all artists but some just choose to publicly practice in the known form of it and most of us just live a life that is artistic in its own sense. Art has always imitated life, didn’t it?
The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.
— James Baldwin