We talk of art as if it is a product, a consumable, durable good. It’s not. It is always as much a verb as it is a noun. It provokes. It inspires. It questions. It exists.
But if I had to pin down (and art isn’t easily pinned down) the reason for art, it’s that it’s sacred. Always. From stained-glass windows painting us in the bright lights of the saints to the most profane atheistic provocations in art houses that the religious might be prone to picket. Art is that “stuff” (not even sure what to call it) that makes one stop and think and feel and realize that there is no difference, truly, to thinking and feeling.
The soul. An archaic word, perhaps. But that’s where art goes. And that’s ultimately why it is always sacred, even in the most provocative sense, in the most logical, in the most political, in the most abstract. It reaches the psyche, the soul, and that’s why we need it. Lungs need air. The psyche needs art. Whether it’s an amazing meal or a mural or a song or a poem or an outfit or a two-thousand year old psalm. Doesn’t matter. We need to breathe.
So if we try and defend the need for art and we get into aestheticism or classicism or nihilism or any of that, we miss it in the sea of isms. We need art because we are human and it’s how our souls breathe.