“When I was at Harvard, I had to read a book by Tolstoy on “What is Art?” All I learned from it was that art was a form of communication between man and man. My fault, probably. But meanwhile, I’ve thought a lot about it; and I’ve come to believe that art is communication informing man of his own dignity, and of the value of his life, whether in joy or grief, whether in laughter or indignation, beauty or terror. Terror can be a catharsis, indignation can dignify life, can dignify man in his scorn of the mean and unworthy. On the other hand, the communication which belittles man, or dishonors him – though it may be artful – is not art – it’s simply an exercise in malice. And in the grey land between art and malice, there are only happenings. Man needs the comfort of his own dignity – as a Being, a Creature of the Universe, as Max Ehrmann said. And that’s what the artist is for. To give him that comfort.”

From the address at the Annual
Tribute Luncheon of the
Los Angeles Library Association
April 5, 1973