Shrine of dog skull, fox bait and dog bowl

How art can profoundly change us all.

We live moment after moment. Many of those moments pass unnoticed. But sometimes those moments become momentous and profoundly change our lives.

For some of us, art is a catalyst for a dramatic change in our lives. It’s hard to imagine how someone’s scratchings on a canvas in their studio can seismically shift a life. That one artist can push another unknown-unmet-person to take a radical shift in their path. It is a part of the capricious wonder of art.

How art saved Bill Murray’s life.

We all know the actor Bill Murray as the funny man. For years, Caddyshack was the only video cassette in my brother’s house, so I watched the film over and over and over in the 80s when I visited him as a school kid.

Like many people with a comedic bent, Murray has a hidden darkness. He brings the melancholy to the screen in Lost in Translation (probably one of my favourite films of all time).

This week, I discovered that the painting The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton saved Murray’s life. If he hadn’t seen that painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, on that day, he way not be with us right now.

Seeing the work of Picasso compelled Francis Bacon pick up a brush.

Sometimes, lives unpredictably intercept. In 1927 Francis Bacon travelled to Berlin and Paris. He was saw Picasso’s 1927 exhibition (Galerie Paul Rosenberg) and began to draw and paint while going to the free Academies.

Let’s say perhaps that Picasso helped me to see

Michel Archimbaud, Francis Bacon In Conversation with Michel Archimbaud, London: Phaidon, 1993, p.32.

Even though after returning to London Bacon tried his hand at interior design, the works of Picasso played on his mind – showing him that figures are as much about feeling as form. This gave him the freedom to create his now famous grotesques.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing: Pintura Mural de Alarcón by Jesús Mateo.

Sometimes you stumble upon an artwork that totally changes how you think about art – and what is possible. For me, places like the sculpture park Storm King in the USA or Naoshima in Japan showed me that art can be totally immersive. I knew what I was getting into with these experiences.

With the Pintura Mural in Alarćon, Spain, I had no idea what I was getting into. We’d left Cuenca and found an old castle to stay in at Alarćon. A tiny town, the streets deserted. As the heat of the day subsided, we walked around town, greeting a posse of abuelitas as they gathered around the square.

They pointed us to a nearby church where Mateo had created this mural. He dreamed of turning an abandoned church into an artwork. Now his murals cover the walls and ceilings, like a modern day Sistine Chapel.

It really showed me that as artists, we have a responsibility do whatever we want. We have to pour out what’s in our hearts and do it regardless of what friends, artists, critics, gallerists or collectors say. We have to create, no matter how mad or unachievable it seems.

Art will save us all. What artwork has changed you?

Art is an international language. It crossed all language and cultural boundaries. As the world gyres, we need to keep a resolute eye on what’s important to us. For me, art keeps us seeing the world anew and gives us hope.

I’d love to hear what artwork is close to you, let me know if the comments below.

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