Finding Wholeness in Art

© 2018 Michael Maurer Smith, Woldumar Nature Center, Lansing, MI

We take heart from form in art because in the last analysis it is a convincing metaphor for wholeness in life. Even when life seems broken.

Robert Adams, Art Can Help

The renown photographer, Henri Cartier Bresson, often spoke of the geometry of the picture, which is another way of saying composition or form. For there to be a convincing metaphor of wholeness, the shapes, lines, tones, contrasts, shadows and color must work in concert to evoke truth and reveal the universal in the specific. The best pictures—those worthy of being called art—point beyond themselves. 

Photographs, in particular, remind us of what once was and is no more—the loved ones now gone forever, the places we knew now irrevocably changed, and the shared experiences with friends and family we can never repeat. Photographs exist in the now but are always about the past and future. They help us locate who, what and where we are in our journey, and where we may be going. 

Art is not utilitarian like a shovel or a frying pan, but it is indispensable to a life of meaning, awakening, joy and beauty, and it helps make us whole.

© 2021 Michael Maurer Smith