Authenticity and Art: Making the Connection

My father was a “closet artist.” He had a beautiful, artistic side that was repressed because our culture led him to believe that to be successful you had to have an office job, so he was an administrator. Suppressing his artistic, authentic self nearly cost him his life, sending him into an early retirement from the office job and into a decade of depression. It was not until he returned to university at the age of 65 to study art that his spirit awakened.

I am working on a project with the world-renowned artist, Murray Phillips, to teach the leaders in an organization how to use art to be more connected with their authentic selves and those they serve. We had a brilliant conversation this week about the role of art in one’s life, about the value of connecting with our artistic self, about honoring the artist within us, and about how all this makes us better people and better leaders.

“You don’t say that someone is ‘very’ physical,” said Murray. “We simply are physical. It is not a matter of degree. It’s part of the human experience. So why should we say that a person is ‘very’ spiritual, or ‘very’ artistic? These too, are part of the human experience.” Everybody is artistic because everybody has something to express. Try not expressing anything for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You may find yourself losing energy, becoming despondent, or you may even feel like you will burst. You will then need to write a letter, draw a picture, garden, or embark on a project.

“Art,” according to Murray, “is a language, a language that we can learn. It is a mistake to think we can communicate everything verbally. In the language of art, words don’t exist.” This is why art can be used to express a range of emotions – grief, joy, inner peace – that words cannot reach. As we learn this language of art we connect with our authentic self and the world around us in new, expanded ways, thus deepening our capacity to influence others with greater presence, and most importantly, enjoy this experience we call human more fully.

One of the indicators of a hurried, troubled, stressed world is that we disconnect from art and then stop noticing the beauty, wonder, and awe of life. This  then limits our full capacity  as human beings. Being disconnected with our authentic self, with our humanness, separates us from each other and from the environment. What we separate from we neglect or destroy.

What are you doing to learn, deepen, and express the language of art in your life? What are you doing to stop and notice beauty around you? When was the last time you were in awe?

For a taste of Murray Phillips’ beautiful work (along with John Gilliat’s brilliant guitar playing), take five minutes to stop and watch: