Art Imitating Life

by | Jul 26, 2011 | 2 comments

What, I often wonder, am I trying to do here with these words.  And why, as I walk around throughout any given day, are they forming in my mind, narrating my day to be something more artful than it feels without them?  Without them, it is drudgery.  With the words as my soundtrack, my slow rising out of bed in the morning, my chance meeting with an old friend, or the tributaries of thoughts themselves, are writing.  And writing can be art, if is done properly.

And then I often wonder, why, am I led or attempting, even subconsciously, to make something artful of this horror bestowed on us?  Is it just that the parameters of my world were blown clear away last July and I am in desperate need of some new definition and boundary?  Or, am I comforted by the appearance of my widow role in films and stories and trying to craft myself into one of those?  The kind I’ve said I would not be many times already, the bad film where the music picks up and the young widow packs up and moves to a new town, gets a new haircut, and starts a new life.  Am I imitating art and does life imitate art as Oscar Wilde claimed in the famous essay and Platonic dialogue, “The Decay of Lying?”  To say that life imitates art is a frightening thing because not all art is good art or even true art.

I do find this to be true with fashion.  I will imagine that suddenly, I’ve truly found my style and I really like the look of a handkerchief hemmed dress or boots with  buckles.  But then I notice that actually these are trends- I am seeing them everywhere and in another year when they are no longer “in style” I will most likely have found something else that is my true style.  But this actually has little to do with art as I’m speaking of it.  It’s just annoying.

Wilde’s argument just never sat well with me, and I think this is why.  The artists who create- are creating art from their own experiences and lives.  From what else could they draw?  Something in them, is compelled to try to make something of it all, put it into some kind of defined expression rather than carry it around like an aroma that can not be explained.

After all, how do you explain blue to a blind person or the sound of rain to a deaf person?   You can only use metaphor.  Which is what I end up doing most times here and failing still because grief must be experienced, not read about or viewed or painted or listened to.  This is how many life experiences are and often this is why they are best transformed and communicated in a poem or painting or wordless song- an art form that is not comprehended piece by piece at first, but it’s meaning understood just the same.

I think the artists have a responsibility and an obligation to try to express and transform into art as much as the human experience as they are given.  And then…those of us who cannot do the same, recognize instead, our own experience in their work.  So, we are drawn to it, and thus our life imitates art.  But both of us, the imitators and the artists are working towards the same goal in my mind and that is: we are compelled to believe life is artful, our life.  This instinct becomes even more urgent when life is chaotic and in disarray.

I am happy to find someone who says it much better than I do, though I may be taking this slightly out of context having not read the book, but a Professor of Greek named Stephen Halliwell, author of a book called, “The Aesthetics of Mimesis,” has this to say, “far from constituting the ne plus ultra of antimimeticism”, the notion that life imitates art actually derives from classical notions that can be traced as far back as the writings of Aristophanes of Byzantium, and does not negate mimesis but rather “displace[s] its purpose onto the artlike fashioning of life itself”.


July 26, 2011


  1. Vee


  2. Erica

    Not sure about life imitating art. But your writing is indeed art; always evocative and thought-provoking. I very much hope it will be made into a book one day…


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