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Look to the Sky

The light from a distant star is billions of years old by the time it reaches your eye here on Earth. It is only now that your eye is able to view it. Your present mind interprets its meaning. It may go unnoticed, phased out by city lights or clouds. Or, it may hold a special place in your heart, evoking the memory of a distant place, a deceased relative, a time of joy, or a childhood dream. Something created a billion years ago, suddenly has unexpected and unintended meaning to an unknown recipient. This meaning can influence interaction, conversation, and behavior. This simple light has power. I think art works in the much the same way.

I was not alive when many of my favorite musical compositions, paintings, sculptures, poems and pieces of art were created. I was not there to understand the sociological or psychological factors that may have inspired their creation. I interpret them through my lens – which also changes over time. Art changes its meaning when placed in the context of time and human experience. Art is personal and at the same time social. It is both a variable and a constant. Social media gives us a new ability to quantify that meaning, and to trace its changes through time – on both a personal and sociatal level. Potentially everyone is simultaneously an artist and an art historian, though we may choose different mediums for expression.

I believe art in an age of social media presents amazing possibilities for engagement, interpretation, and creativity. Imagine being able to read what it was like to see the light created on a distant star when it first appeared, following the journey it took to reach your eye and the eyes of others, and then tracking it as it continues forward into the unknown. What insight could you take away from that experience?

As art becomes more interactive, it takes on new meaning. When someone walks through a museum and posts their thoughts on Facebook they seek to start a conversation. They begin with an interpretation. This yields discussion. Discussion then leads to new levels of meaning and understanding. The art has changed as has the person interpreting the art. The conversation becomes an integral part of the art itself. Through time, this creates a virtuous cycle where by humanity is engaged in applying deeper meaning to that which surrounds us – past, present, and future. That which was created at an earlier time, continues to shine a light that may mean something to someone, somewhere, somehow.

Look to the sky. Do you see that distant light? What does it make you feel? Share that feeling with the world. Express it. Create from that which was created long ago and empower others to do the same.

This is a post that I originally authored for my friend Scott Hull‘s site Visual Ambassador. Recently, I was thinking about this idea, and decided to share it here too.

Photo “Traveling Stars” courtesy of Dhilung Kirat