(Hello! This is an essay I had to write for a class. I really liked the end result so i thought i would share it with you guys. Thanks fore reading! 🙂 )

Existentialist Art

In a world where art seems to need protection, we come across the beauty of existentialist art that makes you pause and absorbed the feeling of abnormality. Most people are not used to seeing artistic figures out in the open for human interactions, but when those rare times do come along we sometimes may not know what to do. The purpose of these sculptures that rest in random public places, such as Street Crossing by George Segal, is to express the idea that art shouldn’t be so emphasized but, instead, be blended in with the world. Creating meaning in a meaningless world being the soul idea of existentialism, we are able to understand more clearly the way art is portrayed. Unlike the traditional way of looking at sculptures—in which the sculpture is a high and mighty figure which us, as humans, look up upon—existentialism looks at art the same way it views life. What does a sculpture make you aspire to be? Does looking up at massive sculptures, such as The Motherland Calls, make you feel lesser as a human being, as if you require a higher power for protection? As I’ve stated before, in an existential point of view you create your own meaning; thus, by creating sculptures such as the Street Crossing you’re able to blend in art with the idea of it being a part of our self-identity.

“Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.” Jean-Paul Sartre had once said, and though it mentions nothing about art, it does, however, make a unique remark on the way an existentialist would view artwork. While many people pass by the Street Crossing on a daily basis, the observation of how people would react differently can speak truly about what they view art as. Say an existential philosopher encounters the art work on his way to work, his actions would be quite different from someone who views artwork as something more precious. The philosopher would walk through the sculptures as if it were living human beings walking in the busy city. He wouldn’t even think about walking around it; to him it would be unnatural, rather being a part of the art would be more natural. Albert Camus once said, “Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all other.” Camus describes that you can’t contain art, else it isn’t art. It’s as if it simply becomes a wrought act. Art defines its own limits, and if you try to limit the bounds of art, it ceases to be such. I find this to fit perfectly with the mentality of an existentialist. By being a part of the artwork, you are experiencing what true art is and not something that is confined. Therefore, the quote by Jean-Paul Sartre I mentioned earlier sums up how an existential philosopher would view the Street Crossing, because when art isn’t confined, it is truly being.

Living in Canada for about seven years of my life, I have encountered many sculptures similar to the one by Segal. Whenever I was faced with a situation similar to this, I would run up to the sculptures and interact with them in different ways. Whether it be sitting on the lap of one which was seated on a bench (given I was very young at that time) or faking a handshake with another that had its hand held out, I found myself interacting with these sculpture with an excitement and enthusiasm inside of me. If I were to encounter the Street Crossing or any sculptures by Segal, I would probably still let my inner child take over and blend in with the scenery that is in front of me. My reason for doing this has always been the same, you don’t always get the privilege to interact with artwork, and many times you’re forced to stay behind a certain point. Therefore, when the opportunity to interact with these amazing artworks come along I do something that makes it memorable. Personally I love art; from a very young age I taught myself everything I know about painting, drawing and crafting. However, unlike my friends, I never minded when younger kids would want to play around with my creations, it gave me a greater satisfaction to watch people interact with what I have created rater then having it as a show piece. For that reason, I am an existentialist in the artistic sense. The many interactions I had with different sculptures have taught me appreciate art more when it’s more personal.

What is the purpose of artwork if it cannot be fully appreciated? Should we trap such beautiful creations behind cages to be observed from a distance? Does that truly make an artwork something relatable? To me art is an expansion of human mind, taking what we create in our minds and bringing it out into reality. I find it that art loses its purpose if we are not truly able to experience it in a personal level. For this reason I find the idea of existential art fascinating and truly a great way to look at art.


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