The Role of the Artist

"A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his mind is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his mind and his heart is an artist." - St. Thomas Aquinas

The above quote of St. Thomas Aquinas brings up a fascinating topic that I will examine in this blog post: what constitutes an artist? In our present time, the distinction between artist/producer/researcher has been blurred with some contemporary art that undermines the visual aspect of art in favor of less-object driven art, such as conceptual, digital, and performance artworks centered on audience participation, ephemeral events, and research projects which seek to create real-world change. Despite the differences between such art and the more visual types of art, i.e. painting and sculpture, what every artist has in common, as St. Thomas Aquinas described so eloquently, is the “heart”—the passion to create and share their spiritual, emotional, and intellectual expressions with the world.

Prior to the Renaissance, artists were considered craftsmen with the ability to follow directions and use their skills to create a beautiful design or painting according to what their patrons commissioned. The Renaissance elevated the role of artists, from mere craftsmen to creators with not only the technical knowledge, but also with the intuition and vision to recreate and imbue the natural world with deeper meaning. This role of the artist still stands true today. Regardless of the choice of medium, the artist has a significant role to play in our fragmented, fast-paced environment, by making us stop and reconsider our own place in the world, and by teaching us how to share our own hearts.  

*Written by Amelia Miholca, Carstens Fine Art Gallery Curator