In the summer of 1967, Gwendolyn Brooks was asked by Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, to write a poem to commemorate the erection of the Chicago Picasso. Brooks, who herself was not terribly well versed in art and originally considered herself to be under qualified to write the piece, was able to aptly express the feeling that the common individual has towards art. Those unfamiliar with art often approach it timidly, if they even approach it at all. Art challenges people when people would rather not be challenged, to be truly understood and felt art demands that we come out of our shells and grapple with ideas headstrong. Art is not comfortable; art makes us squirm. Pablo Picasso, the craftsman of this piece famously said, “the purpose of art is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed”.
Gwendolyn echoes this point throughout the entirety of the poem; she references a tall cold flower in the last stanza of her piece, and exclaims, “It is as meaningful and as meaningless as any other flower in the field”. Not because all flowers in a field are alike, but because until we open up ourselves wide enough to be impugned and to let our thoughts be provoked we will be unable to distinguish art from the mundane. It is easy to walk past the corner of Washington and Dearborn, and shrug off this work of art as an attempt to bring some eye candy to vast concrete landscape, keeping your mind at ease and your thoughts unchallenged. But if you allow yourself to revel in the discomfort, truly extend yourself to the piece, and be urged to voyage, to be hurt, you are opening yourself to be filled with enrichment rather than contentment. Brooks does not wish to condemn those who are confused by art, but rather commend them for taking a stab at understanding something that is often difficult. The less than cozy act sacrifices comfort in exchange for personal growth and that is sacrifice more people should be making. (Zac Polston/COS Student)