Art is something very hard to define. Personally, I don't really like trying. It's so subjective and up for interpretation that it's just annoying listening to people make blanket statements about what they think it is or isn't.

Right now, I'm attending an Art Institute in South Florida. Because it's an art school, there are a lot of eccentric people... but not nearly as many as one would expect. Honestly, a lot of them look like they walked right out of MTV and the most profound "conversations" I overhear involve a lot of Family Guy quotes or the latest news about some celebrity. Fine. I don't care if people like those kind of shows... they're funny... but when the only words slipping from your mouth are movie or sitcom quotes, I really have to wonder... and, I just think they fail to meet the criteria for being an artist. But hey, who am I to judge? Good job, Ai, for duping a lot of people into thinking they're talented and should spend an assload of money on tuition!!! *gives a thumbs up*

We were watching a biography on Andy Goldsworthy in my Concept Development class. Admittedly, I don't like this class. I want to feel like I'm actually learning something that I don't already know or haven't already covered in some other course. But, this movie was actually pretty interesting. The guy goes into nature and creates art from stuff lying around. He'll spend hours or days creating some kind of rock or twig sculpture, and then nature almost instantly consumes it back into itself. Seems pointless, but... I mean... art, in itself, sort of is pointless. To me, art is for no one other than the artist. I may not like it or appreciate it, but... it wasn't meant for me anyway. In any case, I thought what he made was cool and striking.

Here... I'll have my own go at defining art. Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbs (look at me quoting a comic strip! lol) says, "People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance. "

Granted, that may be taking it a bit far... but seriously, art is self expression and not necessarily for the benefit of anyone else but the expressor. My Art History teacher says art ceases to be art when it fails to be functional in society or original. Really? I'm pretty sure art IS imitation and, for the most part, it is NOT functional. Sure, the Mona Lisa is pretty and recognized globally, but... uh... it's not functional. If it were the first portrait ever done, it is still imitating life. Conversly, there IS functional art... cavepaintings and inscriptions on Egyptian tombs were/are functional (communication); modern/contemporary furniture is art but it is also functional. But, cavepaintings were meant to be functional when they were created; not necessarily for simple, self-expression. NOW it's art because it has ceased to be functinal... or has no real meaning to us in our time beyond appreciation or curiosity.

But I digress. This guy, Andy Goldsworthy, gets a lot of spiritual (please forgive the allusion to religion) satisfaction from what he does and very little satisfaction from interaction with people. He's got some ideas that would be considered strange to most people, but... DUH! All artists, throughout history, are freakin' weird! They cut their own ears off and run around naked in the woods. No one EVER understands them, at least not until they die... and even then, I don't think they do. People just like to feel important when they recite their own enlightened opinion, "Oh. I think he was feeling the blackness of his soul emerge out of the depths of the red!" What?! Really? Shut up. Only the artist is allowed to spew that nonsense about their own work (I think).

I'm going on because I was sooo annoyed with the guys in class who were complaining about the movie. I don't care if you don't like it, but... use your little pea-brain, you self-important asses! These kids think they're artists but they're conformists to the ‘inth degree. Don't they have any clue that art originated in the mud and dirt? That it was primitive man trying to understand himself and the impressions nature gave him? Sorry! Not everyone lives in a plastic world of regurgitated concepts to claim as their own.

And I'm just stunned that these kids don't get it! There are a lot of social-rejects at this school... a lot of "misunderstood" individuals. Their ostracizing attitudes exactly mirror the attitudes of those who persecuted artists in the past. How dare they? I mean... I don't appreciate or understand why a black canvas with a red dot is considered art, or why Jackson Pollok's splatter paintings are world renown, but... to each their own. I don't want to hear someone's opinion on an artist's work, but I do like to hear the artist's opinion on their own work.

But... I guess what really makes me mad is their lack of thought; that they don't see that what this guy is doing is EXACTLY what we should consider art. He lives in tune with nature, and whatever he adds or modifies doesn't disturb nature in any way, it merely complements it. He puts the mark of humankind on the earth and it is beautiful, even if no one ever sees it. I truly believe this is actually the way we should conduct our lives... we shouldn't be worried about making a permanent mark, because decay is natural and good. We should leave things better than we found them or unaltered.

Whatever. Feel free to disagree.

Views: 61

Comment by Muhsin Cooper on May 7, 2009 at 6:50pm
"people who fail to understand the value of art are people who fail to understand the reality of the nature. It vexes me to hear/read peoples negative and utter lack of articulation about the visual and preforming arts. Let me explain why art is important: Art is the forward progression of the the human mind to understand, interpretative and replicate itself and the environment of its surroundings"
Comment by CJoe on May 8, 2009 at 1:20am
Yes, Michel... I agree with all you say about what art is. :) It's humankind's mark on the universe, plain and simple... even if it's not always simple.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on May 8, 2009 at 7:04am
I'm not an artist by any means.. but I am a writer. My entire objective is to amuse or educate. (Or communicate, in this typey-type world!)
I don't take myself seriously. Hell, i don't even think I'm a GREAT writer. I'm good. That's enough. I feel my work is successful if people like it. Pretty simple, right? I mean, I write on a pretty specialized subject (technical scuba diving) but if a non-diver reads a piece and goes 'Wow, that was really funny!' or even better 'Wow, I think I'll sign up for an open water course.' or hell, even 'Wow, you people are insane. I'm never going in the ocean again!' then I smile. It means I took something that a person wouldn't normally be interested in and provided enough entertainment that they read it anyway.
I've recently started on digital photography and hate it. I mean, it is hard work and I have no way to judge what's "good" photography or not. I got the basics of it not being blurry, light source considerations, color modifications, ect... but when it comes to the ART of photography....? Dude.. no matter what you do, it's still a fish.
I have done some underwater modeling for a real photographer friend. I could see how what she does is considered artwork because she takes settings like shipwrecks and dresses some poor bastard (me) up in old wedding dresses or nymph costumes and takes shots while breath-hold diving/floating/scowling/looking longingly (while totally blind) models creates a real life fantasy picture. It's cool.
I don't know. I guess I'm more analytical than artistic. When buying artwork to decorate, I generally go with what matches the color scheme and spacing of my room, and then just on stuff I like...I can't always say what it is I like, even about a particular piece.. I just know I like it and that's good enough.
My defense of what I consider good art is stupidly simple.
"It makes me smile"
Comment by Pam on May 8, 2009 at 8:50am
Like Misty, I'm also a writer. While our art differs from the art of pencils and paint, we both still have conventions that generally must be followed in order for our art to be considered "good". I don't mean we have to paint-by-numbers or write in formulaic ways to be considered good artists, but there are only so many mediums and colors, and so many words and sentence structures available for our use. I think that's what your teacher probably meant by "functional". We have to understand these fundamentals before we can use them creatively, and that's the original part. When we talk about art as something subjective, we mean that the audience analyzes it subjectively and that the artist created it subjectively. Whether or not art can be considered "good," however, is based on the fundamentals of that art and the people considered experts of the art. Well, that's just what I think about it.

I'm pretty sure art IS imitation and, for the most part, it is NOT functional

Plato would agree with you. He considered man himself to be a great imitator of the things in our environment and of the higher forms. He believed craftsmen were more closely associated with the perfect forms, but still only able to create imitations of them. Painters, then, who painted real-world objects like chairs, created imitations of imitations. He considered art to be the least perfect representation of reality, which he would argue were the higher forms.

Tolstoy considered art to be the "means of intercourse between man and man" in his 1896 essay "What Is Art?". He wrote that art is based "upon this capacity of man to receive another man's expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself". I agree with his definition up until this point. He goes on to suggest, however, that the best arts are those imbued with the religious perception of the times.

Nietzsche viewed art - tragedy specifically - as a way to find self-affirmation. He argued that tragedy was the best kind of art because it allows us to experience the full gamut of the human condition through "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" elements; where Apollo represents beauty, self control, order, and individualism, and where Dionysus represents chaos, and a wholeness of existence experienced through the dissolution of the individual element (related to "group think" or "mob think").

So many minds throughout history have tried to answer the question "what is art?". But almost nobody agrees on which one of them got it right, especially, as Michel points out, when new forms of art are being introduced all the time. I mean, the background on this website, for example, is a form of art. It's functional in supplying the website with a background image. It's beautiful (or at least I think so), but I can't judge whether it's "good" or not because I don't understand the fundamentals of graphic art. I'm certainly allowed to have an opinion about it, of course, but I'm not a graphic artist or an expert of graphic arts, so I can't say what the artist did right or wrong. Yeah, anyway, ramble ramble ramble. I'm gonna shut up now. :-)
Comment by Megan Latta on May 8, 2009 at 10:46am
As an Artist...Designer...Photographer...whatever, I agree with both of you CaraColeen and Michael.

I began drawing at about age 5. Everyday I would draw all kinds of things but mostly cartoons as I wanted to animate back then :). I wanted to work for Disney, too young to know the details of that company. I ended up getting a degree in photography at 19 and started a company. It was ok but not as fulfilling as I thought. I loved artistic/graphical photography and capturing landscape & creatures but did not like the boring run of the mill photos that people asked for in a studio or wedding setting. I began using photography more as a means to an end and learned all the programs needed to head toward design. I moved to Nashville (for interesting unrelated reasons) and ended up scoring a gig in publishing. I worked for this company for 2 years and—other than most of my coworkers who were shallow and very difficult to listen to in general—loved what I was doing. I worked on historic photo (coffee-table style) books so I got to incorporate photography, design and history (I love history) which was a lot of fun. It was a small company so I got to work face to face with the other designer (who is my hubby) and the editors (the only 3 people who were awesome) and many of the authors. It was great being able to use my talents to spread knowledge.

While I am sure there are progressive individuals in that city, we didn't find many at all. So, my husband and I decided Nashville was not the place for us and headed to Colorado-where we had both always wanted live. We started our own graphic design company and here we are. We do all kinds of design from illustration to book design to family history trees and books to corporate identity packages to sports photography!

For me—at this point—design is about spreading information, bringing people together through visual conversation (and honestly a pay check for something i enjoy doing) and art is more about personal expression and not giving a damn if anyone else likes it or not. I only make the distinction between the two because of my own personal experience with art and design even though they are basically one in the same.

What medium do you prefer Cara? What do you want to do when you get out of school?
Comment by CJoe on May 8, 2009 at 1:32pm
Ok... off topic, but Megan... I swear we've lived the exact same life. I started drawing really early in my life, too... and I lived in Nashville for three years (and shortly thereafter lived in CO). It makes me feel better that you left for the same reasons I did, and for the same reasons I'll never move back. It was a beautiful town full of awesome people, but... I loving refer to that city as the Buckle of the Bible Belt... ha.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. It's really relieving to hear intelligent discourse on this subject. In case no one picked up on it, I am an artist. Being an artist, I still get frustrated with how much people can read into someone else's work. Sometimes, the reason for what I create is very simple: I like the way it looks and it makes ME feel good. It is self expression, but then... maybe it's more about the feeling the piece produces after it's finished.

And yes, I have a purpose behind a lot of my art. I have a message to spread and art is my medium. I guess I think art can be used for whatever the artist wants to use it for, but it has no function until it is assigned one.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on May 9, 2009 at 1:05am
Yeah.. that probably explains why I'm so bad at photography.
..I always just thought it was because my hands shook due to drinking so much... low and behold it's because i have no imagination.
At all.
I mean, seriously.
Very few shots I take can tell a story or make your eyes keep tracing it and looking for more...(The ones I do have generally resulted by pure luck or accident)

Woot for digital photography! I can keep taking pictures of shite until something good appears on my screen!
Luckily most underwater scenes only need two elements to get sold.
1) It must be clear enough to make out some detail.
2) It must have a picture of the diver you are trying to sell it to (for an obscene price) in there somewhere.
Comment by Nick on July 14, 2009 at 4:41pm
LOL, the C&H definition describes my field, computer music composition, perfectly! It's true, I don't do it for anyone but me, art is a very selfish pursuit. If people outside my bubble happen to like it then that's great, but I really don't care that much.


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