Art is a slippery subject. It is a many faceted and multi-defined area of study and practice. Every participant in art from the viewer to the creator has their own personal definition of what art should be, and their own interpretation of what counts. What a lot of people don’t realize is that this is a fairly recent view of art only a hundred years ago art had a specific definition. Art was the practice of creating a representation of a person place or thing in Stone, Bronze, Paint, Charcoal, Ink, or…well that was it really, and the charcoal didn’t really count either except as practice. Then Modernism came.
Modernism was a movement in art that was all about pushing the boundaries of what could be art. Art become a strange mish mash of media and subject matter. This is the age when Performance Art was born and found objects started becoming pieces of art. It was the age of Da-Da-ism, Duchamp, and Warhol. And while it helped break down many stigmas about what should and should not be art, it also, in the end, opened the floor gates, which is what we now call Post-modernism. Forgive me if these are a little off, its been a number of years since my last art history course, and its not my favorite subject of study.
In the end the field was opened for the every man and now we have gallery exhibitions for preschoolers and animals get their own shows. But this is a two sided paradigm, on the one side we have the fact that anyone can be an “artist” does flood the market and make it a bit more difficult to make a living at it. On the other side of this new paradigm is the new democratic nature of art. In the old days when you either a painter, printer or sculptor, you enter an apprenticeship and were trained by a master until you were a master yourself. If you were not a master of one of the arts you had no right calling yourself an artist. Now, the will to create and the resources to get your work out is all it takes to become an artist.
It is exactly this omni definition of art that makes it so tough to talk about, so many art critic just come off a pretentious because they speak as though they have all the answers and that they know what is good and what is a waste of material. The fact of the matter is like every industry in the internet age sustaining yourself with your art is a matter of finding that core group of people in the world who care and want to see/hear/read your work and can pay to do so. And as far as what art is, its whatever inspires, fascinates, or entertains you, you as they viewer are the final arbiter of what art is.
Some people feel that art is whatever is beautiful. Some people only find worth in art that is emotionally disturbing. Many people find that true art is simply self expression, but as any artist who has worked commission can tell you sometimes art is exactly the opposite, expressing someone else’s self. Some folks can’t see the art in something that was not man by a person(Sorry Co-Co). My point is that the definition of as become so multi-varied that the most useful thing is to form your own definition and to not be afraid to change it as you learn and grow.
At this point in my life I have gone through several definitions my current incarnation looks something like this. Art should be beautiful by some metric, whether that’s in the pure aesthetics of the the piece or the message it sends or simple a novel quality that it possesses. Art also has to be man made for me, I don’t deny that there is beauty in nature but in my opinion it needs to be photographed before it is art. There should, I feel, be some sort of intention behind it, I do not see the appeal of “outsider art”, a term used to describe art that is made by infants, animals and the mentally ill. Essentially any art that was made by someone who could not possibly decide to make art. ( And no I am not saying that the mentally ill can’t make art, they just need to be able to decide to do it, that all I mean)
But this is just one man’s opinion and the truth is in five year that opinion will most likely be very different, and that’s okay. The real definition and purpose of art may be hard to pin down but that’s because it is capable of effecting so many different responses. So in the end when you are deciding whether to buy a work of art, or even if you just like the piece, just ask yourself, Does this do anything for me? If it does you have your answer, and if you can figure out what that thing is, then you can see out more of the same.
And that’s my take on art.