My Definition of Art
I have thought a lot lately about what art is. I have yet to find a good definition of art that works for me. There are so many things that are art, it seems like a giant puzzle to me and I’m still trying to fit the pieces together in my mind. I wanted to get my thoughts out there, thinking it might be interesting for you to see my perspective.
In reflection, I have found that the past is a fundamentally different thing from the present moment, in that it no longer exists, except for in our minds. There is the paradox, How can we ensure that the present moment is remembered and lives on when it keeps disappearing into the past? That is where art comes in. Art is a way to communicate over time and space. Marks left on a page, something from the past brought to the present moment. Whether written word or image on canvas, art is the collision of two worlds. But that is just one piece of the puzzle that is art.
As I was listening to the soundtrack to the Hamilton musical I was moved to tears. I wondered why, and that’s when it hit me that’s the place for art, to remind us of the fact that we are human. It moves us emotionally and touches us in ways that cannot be explained. That’s how you know something is art — when it moves you. It’s tricky because what moves one person won’t move someone else. So much of art depends on cultural context — as they say, “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Cultures change over time and art changes too.
So, as I said before, art is a way for the past to communicate with the present. The fact that art evokes an emotional response is another piece of the art-puzzle. Humans are not machines; there is so much more to the human experience than our current scientific and popular view of the world holds. I believe that the goal of art is to remind us of our humanity.
By this definition of art, I’m not sure if what I make is art. I don’t know if I can know because the definition I came up with is from the audience’s point of view. It is in the interaction between the piece and the person viewing it that art exists, the past brought to the present moment evoking an emotional reaction that reminds the viewer of their humanity.
A key piece of the puzzle that is art is that art has human intention behind it, the human being the artist.
A natural rock formation is not art, but a painting of it is, as is a sculpture of it, a picture of it, etc. What these things have in common is that they have human intention behind them. The role of art is to remind us of our humanity through works created by an artist.
There also has to be creativity, artistry, that indefinable spark, involved in the process. The role of the artist is is to remind us of our humanity and bring the past the present moment by tapping into their intuition and creating something with intention. That’s it.
Art and artists are bound together, they are meshed together, interwoven, the definition of one tangled within the definition of the other. This definition is not complete yet, but I feel as though I’m headed in the right direction, what do you think?