Minority Opinions

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What is Art?

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My spouse’s family entertains occasional debates about whether certain painters are or are not artists, or at least whether their paintings are or are not art.  I would hesitate to call my paintings art, which has made me ponder the question of what I mean by that.

Art, to me, is designed to connect the audience with the artist on an emotional level.  There are easier and harder ways to do so, simpler and more complex media, meaningful and banal messages, but it seems to all come down to the feelings evoked.  My paintings have been more about either my basic interests or more recently copies of pretty pictures that seemed reasonable to attempt.  Never has the audience been part of my process; I’m not even sure I want anyone to see my earlier works.

That may be why one of my great grandparents had hidden a painting in the attic.  It’s a basic still life, showing more skill than I’ve yet put into an oil painting, but worth keeping only for maintaining a relationship with the painter.  In a house filled with paintings, it has been set apart, given a place easily visible from within the two largest rooms.  Is it art if the feeling it evokes was unintended, and dependent on the history and knowledge of the viewer?

Other debates have centered around the kind of emotion produced.  Does art have to be beautiful?  Can something that turns your stomach be considered artistic?  Is it art if it’s clearly designed to evoke lust?

As new forms of media have been developed, the world of art debates and later accepts them one by one.  Photography can easily capture amazing moments, but requires much less effort than a painting.  Movies have unfettered access to storylines, music, and imagery, but don’t always use them artistically.  Video games bring audience participation to the forefront, which can produce very powerful moments as long as they don’t feel forced.

Then again, I’ve written one game that was more addictive than artistic, and one with an artistic veneer but no substance.  Everything else I’ve produced has been either purely functional or just for the fun of it.  Will I ever produce something that can honestly be considered art?

Do I even want to?

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Written by eswald

27 Aug 2013 at 8:45 pm

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