- Do you agree with the definition for ‘art’ as it’s explained in the reading above? Why or why not? Can you add to the definition? Is your definition coming from a subjective or objective perspective?
While I do agree to the definitions of art from the reading, in part, I feel they do not satisfactorily encompass all of what art is. The reading tells us “Webster’s New Collegiate dictionary defines art as “The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”, and while true art does involve the use of particular skills combined with imagination to produce aesthetic objects, this is a very basic and rudimentary definition. It doesn’t allow for the passion, the emotion, and the little bits of their soul an artist places into their work. It doesn’t allow for the living breathing entity a piece can become. Would anyone call the Mona Lisa simply an “aesthetic object”? No, of course not, a work that has sparked the imaginations of countless generations and coined phrases such as “a Mona Lisa smile” are no longer merely objects, they are alive, they breathe, they change depending on where we are in life and what we are experiencing at the moment we view them, they touch our souls and make us think and feel. They have the ability to change who we are at our core, when we find a piece we truly connect with or that challenges our beliefs.
The definition from the reading which is proposed from the line in Joseph Brodsky’s poem “New Life”, “Ultimately, one’s unbound / curiosity about these empty zones, / about these objectless vistas, / is what art seems to be all about.” is getting closer to the heart of the matter, but again it’s not, for me at least, a complete definition. The poem speaks to the possibilities art represents and yes, the blank canvas, or paper, or lump of clay in its current unadulterated state as an “empty zone” and “objectless vista” does represent the infinite possibilities of creation, however art is not simply about filling blank spaces. I believe the last definition in the reading comes the closest to embracing the core of what art is. “Art is uniquely human and tied directly to culture. It takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. It asks questions about who we are, what we value, the meaning of beauty and the human condition. As an expressive medium it allows us to experience sublime joy, deep sorrow, confusion and clarity. It tests our strengths, vulnerabilities and resolve. It gives voice to ideas and feelings, connects us to the past, reflects the present and anticipates the future.”
What I would add to the definition of art is this: art is about filling a need, either internal or external. It’s cathartic, and therapeutic, it’s beautiful and horrible, it exposes to the light of day both the ugliest flaws and most beautiful aspects of what makes us human and mostly, it connects us to each other. For instance, two strangers meet in a gallery, but both couldn’t be more different. One comes from an affluent family and has never wanted for material items, the other has always lived hand to mouth, struggling for every dime they’ve ever earned. They stand together next to a painting representing the loss of a child and both begin to cry, they realize they share an experience that ties them together and that maybe they aren’t so different after all. To me art is about breaking down barriers, it’s about the shared human experience. To me, the true definition of art is humanity, and humanity is defined in art.
I believe my definition is coming from a mix of subjective and objective perspectives. Subjective in that I tend to be very emotionally aware, perhaps even empathetic, so everything I experience, including art comes from a feeling place, but also objective in that the fact is art does break down barriers. When Gorbachev first allowed rock musicians behind the Iron Curtain it was the beginning of the end of the Cold War, art brought together the masses in ways countless political negotiations never managed to and yes while the music of the Beatles and Billy Joel isn’t visual art per se, it’s still art and it comes from the same place within us. Art no matter what form it arrives in connects humanity, there’s no subjectivity about that.