What is Art? I Wonder

Artists and those interested in art frequently discuss whether or not there is, or needs to be, any “meaning” in art. In other words, whether or not an object has to have “meaning” in order to be considered art. I propose that, in order to be a work of art, an object does not have to communicate a meaning to the viewer, but it does have to have had a deeply felt reason for being created at the time it was created. That is what gives a work of art its soul.

The passion of creation is what makes “Art”.


I Wonder Image w frame

Here is a picture of my painting, “I Wonder”, and this is why I painted it:

I Wonder

This painting was inspired by my long-standing fascination with the concept of fate, free will, and destiny. For thousands of years philosophers and scientists have wondered if the course our life takes is the product of our free will and the choices and decisions we make, or if the path we are to follow is the inevitable result of fate and destiny.

You would think that the modern scientific point of view would be that there is no such thing as fate, and we live the lives we create by our behavior and choices. However, recent genetic research seems to indicate that at least some major aspects of our lives are determined at conception. On an even more bizarre note, physicists now theorize there a multiple alternate parallel universes, and a new alternate universe is created every time a choice is made. They theorize that the universe “branches off”, when each choice is made, with one universe proceeding in the direction of the choice and the other universe proceeding in the direction that would have been taken if a different choice was made. They claim the universe keeps branching like this on into infinity, and each universe proceeds without knowledge of or interaction with the others.

Back to the topic at hand, it fascinates me that decisions that seem inconsequential at the time they are made may end up having a major impact on our life. My interest in this topic started over 35 years ago with a tragedy. I investigated a traffic crash in which three people lost their lives. The crash occurred at an uncontrolled rural intersection (there were no STOP/YIELD signs). The crash took place in late summer, when the standing corn blocked visibility in all directions. From speaking with one of the surviving drivers, I learned it was only by chance that he had driven into this particular intersection on that day. He and his family were on the way home – from work for the adults and from daycare for the children – this was a trip that they made five days a week. There were several different routes he would take to get home, and one of the things that determined which route he chose was whether a particular traffic light along his path was red or green. If the light were red, he would turn, taking one route, and if it were green, he would continue ahead on different route. On this day, the light was green so he took the route that ultimately placed him in an uncontrolled intersection at the exact moment that a truck was entering the same intersection from another direction.

Over the years, I have investigated many accidents such as this, some resulting in fatalities, some causing terrible injuries, and some where there were no major consequences. Each time I wonder about the long chain of events, and the multitude of seemingly meaningless decisions on the part of both drivers, that ultimately cause them simultaneously to enter an intersection in the middle of nowhere. Think about all of the variables along the way, anything that either driver would have done that would have caused them to start their trip a second sooner or a second later would have resulted in a near miss rather than a crash. Crashes like these require the confluence of so many elements of time, space, and human behavior… if only one were changed there would be no crash.

So I am haunted. What if the path we take cannot be changed, what if our choices do not matter, what if it is all destiny and our story has already been written? Or, what if our lives actually are the product of our behavior and choices, how would things be different if different choices were made, even the smallest ones?

I Wonder.

Image and Text © James Golaszewski 2015  


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