how I found meaning through art
This is not just another college story but about how I found meaning…
Since I was fifteen, I knew that the visual arts brought not just joy but something deeper – something about humanity that I wanted to discover. I chose this path and I went on with it, attending private lessons, college classes during high school and summer courses in the US, Italy and Bulgaria. I had the chance and honour to have my work exhibited at The Washington D.C. Capitol Building, The Regenstein Library, Chicago, and the Houston Art Gallery. I was determined that on this path I will find meaning, and it was really invigorating…
The summer before college, I pushed myself further and was proud to attend the Art Institute of Chicago – the best destination on the chosen path. I struggled with the oils because I identified with charcoal and graphite…and I challenged myself further with sculpture and mixed media, which allowed me to capture the human body and behaviour, to construct microcosms of humanity and to seek the message beyond beauty that I could relate.
Instead of clarity, I sensed confusion and ambiguity in the arts – I was still determined but the path was unclear. The last day of the summer course, my professor called me into his office, offered me a scholarship and spoke beautifully of my work, and suddenly said: “you shouldn’t come here, you should go to a liberal arts college…this is where you will find your answers”.
This was the scariest moment of my life, and later, I found it to be the most meaningful and invigorating – I was thrown in ambiguity, had to embrace vulnerability and opened my mind.
I chose the University of Chicago – the mecca of the liberal arts. In the next five years, I subdued my art but never negated it. Instead, I sought it in a way of reflection through my social science research. I questioned values, morals, trust and I found them reflected and recreated in the arts. I questioned policy and the compartmentalisation of subjects and disciplines… and observed how such silos restrict our vision and narrow our ability to think holistically about society and our existence. I blame the arts and science for their isolated definitions and the social functions they define – and the Enlightenment which praised the standard scientific method and delegitimized the ambiguity of the humanities. I argue against our ‘divided brain’ culture which has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society, and which has created artists with no knowledge of science and scientists with no spirituality.
It turned out that I found my passion in the social sciences – trying to solve problems of humanity – but where I really found my answers was in the space between the arts and science. Thinking openly and embracing ambiguity wasn’t only a process describing the arts, but a link between creativity and problem solving. Over the past seven years, I sought my answers in the social sciences, only to realise that it is the arts that provide us with the missing link – the ability to construct sense of our world and to enable our brains to think comprehensively. (Iain MacGilchrist discusses the importance of the right brain perspective on the world, through how in different eras, the arts, sciences, philosophy and even psychological health flourish when the balance between left and right is maintained.)
Today, I realise that the importance of the arts and humanities as a holistic spiritual and cognitive process that make our existence meaningful and help bring meaning.