It isn’t just what an artist says. It’s how it’s said.
One definition of art–and, I admit, it’s far from being the only definition–is the aesthetic reinterpretation of the world around us. Joseph Brodsky said, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “aesthetics is the mother of ethics.” He meant linguistically–both words are derived from the same source–and also more philosophically. My own interpretation of that is that art makes us better people because it makes us see the world around us in different ways and this, in turn, makes us more connected to the world around us.
Street artist Louis Masais’s painting Save The Bees is both aesthetically and ethically powerful.
It’s an ecological statement. Bees are currently threatened worldwide and as a cornerstone species their extinction could have a ripple effect that would change global ecosystems. It threatens to affect even our lives as we know them, if not our very existence, because of the role bees play in pollinating food crops.
That would be the “ethics” part of his painting–the underlying subtext, but consider the “aesthetics”, how he’s chosen to make the statement. He didn’t write out a text explaining what’s happening to the bees. He could have–others have and it’s a good way to get the message out–but instead his painting incorporates a giant bee onto the corner of a building. And rather than just a trompe l’oeil painting he’s incorporated smaller paintings of flowers into its head, thorax, and abdomen. The bee is one of nature’s works of art and creating art is in our nature. Art doesn’t just mimic nature; it’s our way of defining and understanding it. It connects us. And we have to ask ourselves, do we really want to turn a corner into a world without bees?
Granted this is only one interpretation of this particular work, and Masai has painted several public murals of bees and other endangered animals to raise awareness. This particular one just happened to be the first one I saw when it was posted by Twitter user @CarlForrest. And it made me feel connected.
Thanks also to Karen of Chronicles Of A Boob for sharing it with me.