Seriously, someone take me to Dollywood

When Ray mentioned art that is far away from us but still personally important and appreciated, the first thing that came to mind was Dolly Parton (not joking). I could’ve interpreted this topic a variety of ways, but the basic concept of valuing one’s art form that is unlike your own or what you typically consume makes sense to me. My mom always played Dolly when I was a kid, and I grew up on a lot of her songs. Nearly all of my experiences listening to her music involve singing it with my mom, and while these memories are so important to me, I don’t typically listen to country music, so I’ve found myself wondering if I would even like Dolly if it weren’t for the specific associations I have with her music. In another life, I may never have stumbled upon Dolly’s music and actually given it a chance. This has nothing to do with her or even her specific songs, rather to do with my own general preferences and lack of interest in exploring some of the genre’s older hits. The way that I can feel so personally attached to her songs yet know I don’t relate to it in the sense that many of her fans do raises an interesting question about relatability and art. Maybe we don’t focus on the literal art piece/format and, instead, focus on the way it makes us feel and how it affects our experiences, or what we do with the art. I don’t know how to define one’s proximity to a piece of art or its relatability, but I do know that I value Dolly’s art for all that it is and that it isn’t. It has turned into something I use to connect with others, which some would argue is one of the essential purposes of art itself. Dolly’s songs and conveyed stories can have a weird way of drawing you in and making it feel personal while simultaneously being too specific to ever truly relate to. I know this feeling because I feel it with some of my own favorite songs from other artists. Maybe we can’t identify with all of the content, but if it really reaches us, we value it nonetheless. Despite my inability to fully relate to the music or her experiences, especially compared to others, this music means something to me, despite my distance from the genre or content itself.

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