The Butterfly Effect of Art
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
When I was a senior in high school, our AP studio art class took a field trip to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). It was my first time there. I remember seeing Pollock's Number 31. I had learned about Pollock in class and was fascinated by the concept of abstract expressionism. I knew that the work of these artists was supposed to be a manifestation of emotion post WWII that could not be otherwise communicated with the weight of how the world had been transformed by trauma. I had seen the famous films of Pollock's creative process, where one can witness his mind transport to another plain as he made his brush movements. I remember staring up at the painting at the MOMA, inspecting inch by inch and trying to feel the raw emotion Pollock felt when he made the original marks. It was as if the painting swallowed me whole- I was inside a world of mark making and emotion.
At that moment I did not know how deeply Number 31 had effected me, but I would come to realize that it was the first time a work of art truly moved me, and ultimately that connection solidified my desire to work as a professional artist. Pollock himself could not have known the impact his artwork would have on a 17 year old 50 years after he made it, and it can't be said how many others have had their lives touched or their paths altered simply because they laid eyes upon his work. The ripple effect however, is very real.
Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950,1950
Whether you are an art lover or an artist yourself, never under estimate the power a work of art can have on your life. The transformative nature exists whether you are aware of it or not.
What is the power of a work of art? In our technologically based world, some argue that painting is irrelevant. In my opinion, it's more important than ever. Modern painting is the manifestation of our earliest expressions as a human. Research says early human cave paintings were the first signs of true civilization, because it was the first activity that had no bearing on survival- it was entirely altruistic, created for the purpose of sharing with others.
Works of art primarily communicated visual stories and memories that had no other way of being documented- after all there was no camera and no way to take a selfie for most of humanity's existence. However, art remains much more than a picture of what the eye sees- it communicates important moments, creates windows into life experiences, and shares emotions that would otherwise be impossible to visualize. It brings us to a place where literal word and thought cannot venture.
The impact of a work of art on the person who sees it cannot be measured. Looking at a painting is like the moment a spell is cast upon you- your mind cannot unsee it, and the experience instantaneously transports the viewer to a place they have never been before, whether they meant to or not. It cannot be controlled- if you look at a work of art then it has an effect on you. There is no way to know the full impact of a work of art on anybody's life. Viewing a work of art is like the butterfly effect- the concept being that a butterfly flapping it's wings in one part of the world can be what creates a hurricane somewhere else. There is no way to trace the hurricane's cause to the flap of a butterfly wing, but that doesn't negate the contribution the butterfly had to the manifestation of the hurricane.
We may not be able to always pinpoint the impact viewing a work of art has on us, but it will impact us nonetheless.