Like whole grains and exercise, books about art theory and philosophy are something I “do” because I know they’re good for me. I have to be in the mood for them, and if I’m not, then I have to trick myself into being in the mood for them. I found Drawing Us In on a recent Sunday and, taking advantage of the balmy winter we’re having, set out for the solitude of Gage Park. I wanted zero distractions, like when I have homework.
Two pages into this collection of short essays, I was hooked. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. These were funny, profound, touching and remarkable stories by a variety of people about the impact the visual arts have had on their lives. And they were easy to read.
American writer Dorothy Allison talks about the enduring impact her church’s mural of Jesus Christ had on her as a child, saying, “if I can wish for anything for my art, that is what I want—to live in some child forever.”
American writer Alfred Kazin describes walking into the Metropolitan Museum in New York City as a young boy with his immigrant father, a house painter from Brooklyn, and finding paintings by Edward Hopper that confirmed the alienation he sometimes felt living in such a large city.
In these essays, art isn’t something separate from the human experience, it is an ingredient—a nutrient, in fact. Something that makes its way in unexpectedly, often by chance, and changes the course of how we see the world around us, gives us a voice for things where words fail and sparks our own creative fires alight.