Abstraction gives us a new way of seeing. It uses the elements of art to communicate in ways that representational art cannot, making certain ideas more attainable.

Many people look at abstract art and say, “I don’t get it,” while others are drawn to it’s deeper layers of meaning.

The truth is that we do get it, but we are simply not trained to know what we are looking at. All art has deeper layers of meaning. Our educational systems used to include both the vocabulary and the tools to understand art. Much of this training has been eliminated in favor of test scores. The reality is very much that art education results in higher test scores and higher levels of cognition and independent thought, as well as greater capacity for problem solving.

Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell relied on color and rhythm to communicate. Her paintings follow a visual poetry, lyrically evoking images, words, and emotions through the placement and the movement of color.

If you don’t think paintings have rhythm or movement, studying her work changes that.

Her paintings cause an immediate response, and call the viewer to stay a bit longer. Mitchell was a master of evocative art. Her pieces are bold and resounding, inviting us to pay attention to our emotions.

Paying attention to our emotions is one of the most important ways we grow to gain mastery over ourselves and become the people we were created to be. There is much more about us that would be described as abstract than we often allow ourselves to believe. Our culture is very heavily influenced by left-brained thinking. It is important that we understand what it means to live with an integrated mind, where both the right and the left halves of our brain function to allow us to lean in to joy, experience more fulfillment, and learn how to solve problems creatively, in ways that do not simply help us survive, but lead us to thriving. Art allows us to live from a more integrated mind. Creating things, studying the things that bring us excitement, writing our thoughts every day in a journal, listening to music – all of these things are great and effective ways to start integrating our minds. The more we do, the more fully we can live, the more we can experience what Jesus calls “life to the full.” This is because creative endeavors lead us into the prefrontal cortex, where we experience joy and wonder, and out of the lower brain, where we are only focused on survival.

This is the power of art: to invite us into transformation.

“First Cypress” – Joan Mitchell

1964 Image from Joan Mitchell Foundation