Connections: Why Art?

By Jeff Martin

Now that Iíve had the opportunity to visit three extraordinary artists, I have even more to say beyond the who, what, when and where.

When practicing modern journalism, the question ìWhy?î is often used. It wasnít always so. In the recent past, it was enough to just report the facts and be done with it. Fortunately, publishers and editors began to see the importance of asking and answering why ñ why is this story important, why should readers care, why does the subject have relevance?

The importance of the annual East Otto Artist Open House, scheduled for this weekend, cannot be stressed enough. Elliott Hutten of Hog Shed Pottery, Robin Zeffers Clark of Brookside Studio Watercolors and Barbara Fox of Mill Street Gallery form what I call a Holy Trinity of Perspective.

In other words, together they offer a powerful way of looking at the world. By way of paint brushes, a pottery wheel and kiln, the three artists represent and manipulate mediums in such simple yet grand ways that, upon visiting their studios, a person canít help but be moved emotionally.

This world we live and work in becomes harder the older we become, and for this reason alone it is important to meet and experience those people in our midst who dare to look at the world differently than most of us do. Artists are the earth movers, the soul shakers, the great agents of change that help us all appreciate the world around us.

If nothing else, but perhaps most importantly, they help us look at the world once again as if we were children.

Aside from the basic conversations I reported in the Ellicottville Times during the past three weeks, all three artists had plenty to say about their lives that I didnít include in the articles.

They share many things in common ñ from their educations to their sudden realizations years ago that they were artists. But the most important thing they shared is how they once and continue to struggle in their effort to illuminate the importance of art to Western New York residents.

I donít want to say that one artist among the three experiences more success than the other, but I got the feeling that it must be difficult practicing their art in an area that is predominately agricultural. Most people in this area are practical beings and would just as soon search for a ìusefulî purpose for a painting, rather than simply hanging it in a living room and appreciating its deeper meaning and how that deeper meaning translates to the meaning of life in general.

The meaning of life? As experienced through a fire-forged mug, a canvas? Really? You betcha.

The great paradox of art is that it is both useless and necessary at the same time. One does not need a painting of a snowy wood to enhance their life; yet one does need the grace of anotherís perspective to see something of life that they would otherwise not. We live our lives through a pair of eyes ñ why not trust the eyes of artists to show us something we otherwise could not see?

As artists, Hutten, Fox and Clark are searching the landscapes of their very souls and, through intensely hard work, bringing those landscapes to light. They are showing us what must be very intimate parts of themselves, and for that they deserve our respect and appreciation.

If nothing else, they deserve at least a visit this weekend.

Who knows how youíll see the world ñ or yourself ñ afterwards.