It's fascinating to me how some art can slice straight through all of my layers and hit me straight in the heart. Like an arrow shot skillfully through a very narrow opening, it completely misses all of my evaluative processing, so that I don't really judge what it is about it that makes it good. My first reaction is only to feel something.
I wrote on my blog years ago that my best pictures were made in a moment when my heart broke. I believe some of the best art is made when the artist is broken in making the work - not only in terms of sadness or grief, but when the beauty so overwhelms them that they create from the most vulnerable place, the inner child.
Merriam-Webster uses words like subdued and interrupted to define brokenness. My husband Johnny shared an interview with John Frusciante some time ago, where he talked about how art already exists outside of us - that we don't "create" art, but rather we are a channel through which the art seeks to finds expression. If this is true, then art does require our brokenness. We construct the adult we want to be to protect the child we are inside, but it is often that very adult in us who judges and criticizes, who overthinks, rationalizes and creates fear. This is what needs to be subdued for the inner child to have the courage to bring the art to life.
Perhaps this same process of brokenness is what allows us to feel art deeply - even art that we might otherwise dismiss. Jeanette Winterson wrote about this in her essay Art Objects: "When you say 'This work has nothing to do with me,' 'This work is boring/pointless/silly/obscure/élitist etc.,' you might be right, because you are looking at a fad, or you might be wrong because the work falls so outside of the safety of your own experience that in order to keep your own world intact, you must deny the other world of the painting. This denial of imaginative experience happens at a deeper level than our affirmation of our daily world. Every day, in countless ways, you and I convince ourselves about ourselves. True art, when it happens to us, challenges the 'I' that we are."
When I first met my husband, my experience with music was somewhat limited. I didn't like certain genres and wouldn't listen to them because they felt abrasive to me. But Johnny had broad taste in music - everything from metal to blues to classical was something he was open to. Through him I learned to listen to music differently - to see all music as art, with an artist behind it who has something to say. In retrospect, I think I was just afraid of what I didn't know and didn't understand.
It takes courage not only to make art, but to let it in.