What is art?
I know art when I see it. That’s what most people say, right?
Well, at least I think I know what art is when I see it. I’m relatively trained in the arts. As a kid, I doodled and played music. Along with my various art classes through the years, I also went to Columbia College. Now, when time permits, I take the old camera out and shoot anything and everything my heart desires.
Some of the photographs come out great, capturing my full intent of the moment. It looks the way I wanted it to, where light and opportunity meet to create meaning. In these moments, the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” fully applies.
Then there are the overwhelming numbers of photographs that I take that just don’t make the cut. Maybe the perspective was bad, or I shot too close to the sun. Is that a sneer on her face? Do I really like the picture of my brother with a mouth full of food at Thanksgiving? And in the end, whatever my intention, which one constitutes art?
If you check out Wikipedia’s definition, it basically tells you that art is an arrangement of things to affect our sensory, emotional, or intellectual centers. Using many modes of expression from music to sculpture, art seems like it is getting us to think and feel a certain way about its message.
But what is it? Is art a piece of music? Is it a crumpled piece of orange paper near a red wastepaper basket seen from a dramatically lighten perspective?
From this, who says that this is art? What if I don’t like the music? What if all I think of the piece of paper is that some one missed the basket? Is it still art?
To be succinct about these very philosophical questions, essentially, art is totally subjective. Taking Wikipedia’s definition to heart, my conception of good art is that which would best arrange things in a way that is beautiful to me. I don’t have any more right tell you that a work is more art-worthy than you have to say that vitamin water is better than regular H2O. Individuals determine for themselves what art is and why it is important.
Art may adhere to cultural norms, clarify an idea, or evoke certain wanted emotions that couldn’t be shared with anyone else. Whatever art is, it’s personal.
I gather that most people think they know what constitutes art, even if they don’t do anything particularly artsy.
Working as a cashier, you have a unique opportunity to hold hundreds, if not thousands of mini conversations with a random assortment of people about anything. It doesn’t matter, you have two minutes, so what do you talk about?
I took the opportunity over a couple of days to ask people in line the question; why is art important?
I got a lot of blank stares and even a guy who said that he doesn’t think about art at all. But the general consensus was that art was an essential part of self expression. The idea being that, life can’t be all work, paying bills, raising family, doing home repairs, etc…
Though many couldn’t put their finger on particular reasons for the importance of art, most agreed that it is important. My favorite quote came from a nine year-old girl who said, “art is another way of expressing emotions,” far and away a better, more succinct, insight than her adult counterparts.
In these mini-conversations I heard what I’d always felt but couldn’t necessarily put into words. That art is how we realize how dynamic life really is.
Through art, we are able to see the world as we like it, on our own terms. It allows us to have conversations about the theme and come to an understanding about its’ meaning. To escape from our present.
Me? At this point, I’m not sure that I know what art is. But regardless of this, I know that self-expression is essential. And art is one of the most powerful tools of this expression.
You? What is art to you? Is it the crumpled up orange piece of paper? Is it an installation at the art museum? Better yet, why do you consider it art and what does it mean to you?
- Justin Breaux