Saturday, January 29, 2011
Visual Art That Speaks
I was thinking some of my random rambling thoughts when my brain asked why schools offer a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in writing. Writing isn’t artistic, unless it’s calligraphy or something. Of course I was staring at page of my chicken scratch scrap handwriting at the time. Fortunately that idea didn’t survive very long. Because, in so many ways, yes: writing is art.
The first flaw in my brain fart was that art has to be something pretty. Not all art is pretty. Some art is sad, scary, shocking, confusing and decidedly not pretty. The only words that can define art for me are creative and expression. Art is creative expression. Writing is creative expression. So writing is art. Ding!
Now the interesting thing is, writing is art in so many ways. Yes there’s the creative expression that is inherent in writing – because you are taking your thoughts and turning them into words on paper, like a musician turning emotions into music, usually so that someone else can understand you. Writers extract knowledge from their minds in that painful non-surgical procedure of getting it down on paper. Writers build worlds on white backgrounds. The very basis of writing is creative expression – art. But there are other ways writing is art too.
The very building blocks of the words themselves can be a form of visual art. Calligraphy is dedicated to making words look “pretty” but there are so many other forms of written art as well. Look at the writing of any other language that does not use the same Latin/Roman letters we’re accustomed to in English. Writing like Arabic and Kanji, Nepalese scripts look like art to me because they are unfamiliar, intriguing, enigmatic and yes, pretty. But does the fact I am accustomed to seeing written English, make it any less artistic a script? I’ve been desensitized to the most amazing thing about the written word. Writing is visual art that speaks.
One of the many ways it speaks is in autobiography. Handwriting can tell us a lot about a writer. Just the way we put pen to paper is autobiographical. When you look at a page full of flowing words, no scratches, you see the writer’s confidence and preparation. When you see neat cursive or machine-like uniformity in a person’s print it would not be farfetched to think that the person is meticulous. When you see the scribbles, scrawls and scratches of a mind at war with itself, uncertain, you feel the writer’s torment. Handwriting is such a reliable form of self expression that there are analysts who make a living doing profiles of people based on their handwriting.
…but there’s more! Thanks to word processing and the uniformity of fonts, the written word can also make shapes. Shape poetry is designed to form an overall picture or shape from the words and their placement. It’s like a fourth dimension to the two dimensional art of writing. Height, width and depth and flavor. Writing is four dimensional art on a piece of paper… And this is why I love it.
Truly, there’s a lot to be gleaned from a page of chicken scratch scrap writing by an over talkative brain.
(Image by Kelene Blake)