I already wrote about my fascination with his work in “In Search of Light” so I won’t repeat that here. But his death, and the discussion surrounding him and whether or not his art was anything more than ” mass-produced kitsch” as many critics claim has made me think about a question that runs through my life.
What is art?
I walk over to flip through my trusty Concise Oxford Dictionary (preferring the feel of printed pages to the more easily accessible dictionary on-line) and look up this simple three-letter word:
1. a. Human creative skill or its application. b. work exhibiting this. 2. a. . . . the various branches of creative activity concerned with the production of imaginative designs, sounds, or ideas, e.g. painting, music, writing, considered collectively. b. any of these branches. 3 creative activity, esp. painting and drawing, resulting n visual representation 4. human skill or workmanship as opposed to the work of nature. . . . 5. . . . a skill, aptitude, or knack . . . 6. . . . those branches of learning (esp. languages, literature, and history) associated with creative skill as opposed to scientific, technical, or vocational skills.
Hmm. Based on that definition, then, art has something to do with creativity and expression. There is nothing in that definition that requires art to be elitist or accessible only to a privileged few. There is nothing in that definition that suggests that something popular cannot be considered art.
To me art is something that elicits emotions and makes a person think. That doesn’t mean it has to be so obscure that your brain does gymnastics trying to uncover the deep hidden meaning of a piece of art.
Occasionally I enjoy the mental gymnastics created by looking at a piece of art that means many things to many people. I like discussing theatrical productions that can be interpreted in multiple ways depending on your relationship to the art. Look at my post called “A Weekend of Powerful Arts” for proof of this. I believe that arts should motivate thought and discussion, as well as interpretation.
But, even the simplest piece of art allows for interpretation.
Granted art like the above Winslow Homer piece requires skill and talent, but the picture is clearly of two boys in a pasture. What needs to be interpreted? Well, to me the power of art like this is the potential for a story. The questions it raises. Why are these boys sitting in the pasture? What are they looking at? What happened right before they sat down? Did they plan to meet here or meet each other by accident and decide to sit and rest. Why are they sitting in the middle of the pasture, rather than under a tree? What are they talking about?
When I look at or read a piece of art, my mind asks questions and I search for answers. The answers do not have to be hidden in obscurity for me to consider it art. Nor do I have to love a piece to call it art. Of course, I admire art that shows the skill of an artist, but art can be just as wonderful when it simply shows the heart of an artist and his/her interpretation of the world.
“All art is an individual’s expression of a culture. Cultures
differ, so art looks different. ” (Henry Glassie)
How do you define art?
- Thomas Kinkade, Popular Artist, Passes Away at 54 (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Thomas Kinkade was a talented artist with excruciatingly bad taste, and a professed Christian with excruciatingly bad behavior. So why did the art establishment resent him? Probably because he rejected their dehumanizing garbage… (patheos.com)
- Shaping the Gift of Reality (shoreacres.wordpress.com)