Why do we look at art?
Maybe to see what's possible. Painters take extremely simple ingredients (often literally colored mud and some oil) and turn them into something that has never existed before. Something from nothing almost.
When one is struck by a powerful painting this something-out-of-nothing quality is there in the back of their mind. It is a reminder that genuine invention, rebirth, discovery, and so on are real possibilities in our lives.
No wonder I go back to look in museum's so often.
My wife is a psychotherapist who has spent years in the trenches. She specializes in group therapy and has patients from all walks of life. Almost all have had recent suicide attempts. What strikes her most is how much alike all of us are, patient and non-patient. I've asked her many times what she considers most important in therapy and her answer always the same: hope. The feeling I get from viewing a really good painting is a quiet surge of energy that seems to flow out from the canvas and gently wash over me. It stokes my inner fires up a bit, gives me livelier mind, and it makes me hopeful for the future.