Sister Wendy: Art Changes But It Doesn’t Get Better

Sister Wendy Beckett is a bonafide nun with a considerable knowledge of and contagious enthusiasm for art. I recently had the delightful opportunity to watch her documentary, The Story Of Painting. One of the things that really struck me the first time I watched it was an early scene in which she visits some early cave paintings and muses over the nature of art.

Sister Wendy:

And so you see, scientifically these are primitive people. Because science advances. It’s like a ladder – one step leads to another, but art isn’t like that. Art is about being human. Children make art instinctively. Archeologists know when they find evidence of art they’ve found evidence of human beings. It expresses all that is best in us. Our desires, our hopes, our truth. And so art changes, but it doesn’t get better.

I’ve devoted so much space – in this blog and in my head – lately to the idea of Ira Glass’ gap and about wanting to develop technique and my own ill feelings about my limitations as a painter and writer, but there is something about this idea that rings true.

Certainly our forms and techniques may vary and evolve over time but art – that fundamental human desire to express one’s self – remains constant.

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