I lived in Berlin a few years ago and visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The first thing you see walking in are the words worked into the iron bars of the front gate:
“Work makes you free.” A chilling statement at the entrance of a place where thousands of men, women, and children were worked to death, among other atrocities. Standing before that gate and feeling the hollow echoes of horrors past is not an experience easily forgotten.
So when Jennifer Nielsen revealed the cover of her new book, A Night Divided, it hit me hard. The words worked into the barbed wire reminded me starkly of the gate at Sachsenhausen, and it represented beautifully the pain and suffering that lingered on for decades after the war ended with a broken, impoverished land and divided families.
It made me think about art, about what it is that makes pictures or writing or theater or anything come to life. To some extent, it is the artist. It takes talent, hard work, dedication to create something that can touch a person.
But in the end, art is nothing without someone to appreciate it. Art takes on a life of its own when it comes in contact with the rest of the world. It’s like a chemical reaction. You start out with your created work, your masterpiece as you see it. But when it reacts with others’ experiences, memories, hopes, dreams, it bubbles and froths and turns into something beyond what you imagined.
Some are bothered by interpretations of their work that don’t match their own, but that’s the beauty of art. It’s not one set thing. It becomes something completely new every time another person experiences it.
So go forth and create–not just your own art, but your perspectives on others’. Whether you’re writing or reading, performing or watching, painting or admiring, you are a part of the art.