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Sunday, February 5, 2023

What is Art?

One of the first questions one would ask themselves when getting into art would be what is art. But there seem to be so many different answers to that.

Definitions for art abound. In the dictionary, in encyclopedias, in textbooks, and as takes, from artists, art enthusiasts, and art critics. They may be contradictory or appear to be so. That’s because art is not something simple to define. It can even take philosophizing to do so.

When defining art, it can be looked at objectively or subjectively. When you view it objectively, you essentially look for attributes that can be valued and measured externally in the external realm. Such as how it relates and compares to other things around it or even how it influences them. When you view it subjectively, you essentially look for how you, personally, value and measure it internally in your internal realm. What meaning and significance it has to you or how it holds up to your own taste and preference. Neither way is wrong. They are merely different dimensions that aren’t necessarily separate.

Typically, though, there are standards to be met before calling something “art”. And these can be anywhere from quite strict to quite loose. But basically, these standards can be in regards to skill mastery (where it must show dedication and genius), genuine involvement (where it must serve as expression and transformation), cultural impact (where it must address and affect important matters), and by sales and recognition (where it counts how demanded and acclaimed by people it is). I happen to lean the most into the genuine involvement category and the least toward sales and recognition, but that’s just me and there is undeniable merit in all of these.

Here is how I like to define art, with a more widely encompassing definition: “Art is both the means by which life is manifested or portrayed and what results from it, through the individual or collective use of knowledge, ability, tools and/or other resources, regardless of technique and style.” And 'life' here, also being widely encompassing and referring to anything in life or coming to life.

But there are other ways to see it that I also appreciate.
For example, here are three of my favorite celebrated quotes about what art is:

• “Art is the lie that enables us to see the truth.”
• “Art is the bond between the material and the spiritual.” 
• “Art is the signature of civilizations.”

So, do you make art?