Thank you for your kind words and insight. I’m going to add The Shock of the New to my list. I just looked it up and it seems similar to Simon Schama’s Power of Art, which is one of my go-tos.
There’s a reason I love Lawrence Weschler. He’s an amazing writer all on his own and he’s fascinated with all kinds of art. I got my language of art from him and ended up finding modern art fascinating because of what he taught me. His biographies of Irwin and Hockney were especially valuable, since they were just long-form conversations with two very different artists about how they looked at the world while also carrying on a decades-long argument with each other through each successive essay.
That, more than anything, taught me that art is a conversation. It has a language. The artist is trying to tell me how they see the world and invite empathy, whether through argument or agreement. That was also where my training as a historian tied it all together. Artists record and comment on the world just as surely as historians and journalists do. You’ve got Guernica as a visual response to the Spanish Civil War just as surely as you have Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” as a response to Vietnam.
Anyone who says we don’t need art doesn’t really understand what it is to be human.