Let Things Change You Without Knowing Why
Art often has no "point." That's what gives it its power.
By Nicholas Russell
Nicholas Russell is a writer from Las Vegas.
It feels hyperbolic to claim that art can save your life. Hyperbolic, but not inaccurate.
By 2018, I had lived in New York for a couple of years. I was working a part-time retail job and taking college classes when I wasn’t at work. During this time, I hadn’t experienced much of the city’s artistic offerings beyond going to the movies and, because I worked across the street from it, spending my lunch breaks napping underneath the gigantic blue whale replica in the ocean wing of the Museum of Natural History. I was broke and depressed. But when faced with the decision between spending what little money I had left over after paying rent on groceries or movies, I usually went to the movies. In the darkest times, month to month, week to week, I felt that movies were all I had.
It felt strange to me that movies, or anything else distant and static, could pull me back from the brink, and yet they did. Beauty stakes its own claim as worthwhile. In the best circumstances, it changes the way you perceive yourself, presenting a pattern for you to divine, a horizon where there once seemed a wall. In her hybrid novel-memoir, Artful, Ali Smith writes, “We make form and form makes us.” Once made, art takes on a life of its own, simultaneously shaped by and independent from our interpretation of it.