Art and Self-Expression


Art lessoned learned

“I don’t understand why are you so upset!? I’m just saying that instead of putting that line over there and using that color, you should draw the line this other way and use a different tone of that color you used. That’s all!”

I repeated, visibly confused while pointing at the painting my wife, Kimberly, made. 

I could have swear I used the most carefully selected combinations of words to give a useful opinion about the artwork Kimberly was showing me.

However, my inflated chest of “super-husband-who-always-helps-her-wife” started to deflate as I kept looking at her expression change at the same time I was articulating my feedback.

My desire at that moment was to provide a constructive criticism about my wife’s art. But now I just wanted to know why was she crying. 

“What did I just say that was so wrong?”, I wondered while trying to find the answer on my wife’s face.  

“You won’t understand.”, she finally said as she played with her fingers.

“Can you please explain it to me then?”, I demanded. 

“What you are suggesting will totally change what I wanted to say with my painting! It will end up being your painting, not mine.”


From that point on, I promised to myself to never try to change someone else’s decision, not about art, not about anything else. 

And if so it happens I have to give my feedback to someone else, it would be because they specifically asked me to give one.  

If so, I would try to give it within the confines of their own particular situation, trying to not get in the way of the natural course of their path.

Ideally, I would help others to walk through their own issues by listening to them so they themselves can find the answer to their own problem.

Needless to say, I fail at that task almost everyday. 

The urge to move my lips tends to overpower my listening skills. I would like to believe I am getting better at that, though.  

When my wife showed me her artwork, what she wanted me to do was to appreciate what she had to say, in this case through a painting.

By me telling her to make all of those changes to her painting, I was literally saying “What you are expressing through that artwork is really not that important. YOU are not that important. But I am, and this is why…”

I was neglecting her right, and the need, to express herself, in this case, through art. 

I neglected who she was.

That got me thinking about the importance of self-expression, in particular with the arts.

The two purposes of art

As I explained on a prior article “Is art still relevant?”, it’s my belief art is one of the tools the creative self in us uses to recognize itself against reality and give its own meaning to life.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that self-expression is the expression of one's own personality, the assertion of one's individual traits. 

It made me think, if the self is not able to identify itself among the myriad of selves out there, wouldn't it be at the mercy of everything and everyone's will?

After all, not knowing who it is or what it stands for, every path is correct and none is wrong. 

Indecision, submission and chaos. 

That's all I can perceive from such a situation.

I think there are ways to let the self walk around in public, with all of its quirks and imperfections. 

Vulnerable. Authentic. 

From the way they dress, to how they act, to the people they surround themselves with, to the activities they attend to, the selves of the world are always trying to express who they are. 

All of that in an attempt to reassure their identities and validate their own existence. 

In this regards, I believe art can serve two purposes. 

1) On the one hand, art could serve as an exploration of the self.

2) On the other hand, art could serve as a reflection of the self. 

Exploration of the self

Sometimes the self seems to be lost, silent, afraid of coming out. So it hides deep within with a submissive attitude. 

It needs a little encouragement for it to stand on its own two legs.   

Here art comes in handy. 

Characterized by having virtually no rules, art allows the free exploration of the self without the fear of being wrong or the fear of trespassing some prohibited boundaries, since in art there are none. 

No restrictions will interfere with the development of the self. 

Hopefully, this childlike exploration through art encourages the self to find its way out of the darkness it had be hidden for a while so it can find its ultimate strength which comes from knowing who it is and what it stands for. 

Reflection of the self

On the contrary, the self who is clear on who it is and what it stands for, is in no need of encouragement to stand on its own two legs since it is already motivated to get out and eat the world. 

The problem here is not a lack of encouragement but of a medium to fulfill itself against reality. 

The usual mediums are just not enough for it. Not because they are inherently wrong, at least not necessarily. But because they fall short on being able to showcase most or all the self is as a whole.

Its identity, therefore, its existence, is not being reflected outwardly the way it is supposed to. It’s existence flickers as a result.

The motivated self wants to be validated as everything it knows it is, and nothing less.

In the arts, the self suddenly finds itself standing before multiple possible mediums at its disposal to push its identity outwardly and see its own reflection, thus the fulfillment of its existence.


To finalize, I don’t think self-expression is only attainable through art alone.

There are other aspects of life in general that seems to function as a medium for the self to see its own reflection against the fabric of reality. 

Graduating from college. Getting the newest sport car. Being a good wife. Taking care of a family member. Finding a high-paying job at a good company. Working to develop a great physique. 

These and many other examples not mentioned here are outer symbols the self attains in order to fulfill itself against the fabric of reality. 

I do see a limitation with, let’s say, these “prefabricated” mediums and provided by our communities. 

Unlike art, most of these mediums already come with some established meanings.

Depending on the situation of the inner self, this might or might not be what the self needs. Thus, torment could emerge due to the contradiction between the inner and outside world. 

In the arts, however, you become the creator of meanings.

This means that the probabilities for the self to express itself the way it wants and thus validating most or all of its existence are basically guaranteed.  

Final words

I would like to belief that this self-realization has the capability of going beyond mere self-satisfaction. 

I would like to belief that this self-realization achieved through self-expression, in this case, through art, allows the self to understand more of itself and its nature.

Thus learning to live in harmony and compassionately with other selves who are going through the same process. 


P.S. If you would like to explore my wife’s artworks and the form that her self expresses through art, please click here.  

Author: Jason Berberena

Visual artist and co-founder of Kreation Artzone

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