Art in brief

I’ve been trying to succinctly phrase what art is.

Sure, people can say art is everything and anything. They’re not wrong. But I’m not sure it helps the non-artist (the real non-artist) to really grasp art.

I think, and correct me in the comments if you think I’m wrong, that art is widely seen as being about aesthetics. Ancient pottery is art. A beautiful painting is art. A film with incredible acting and beautiful cinematography is art. Bach’s Sarabande from his Cello Suite no. 6 in D Major is a masterpiece (well, it is). A VR experience through some blobs of interactive color is art. And a cool poster that blends graphic design with some illustrative tip of the hat to some bygone mid-late 20th century pop artist is art. 

What the non-artist thinks of as art when they think of these things is actually the aesthetic experience. In fact, a lot of the time this aesthetic preference is actually based purely on culturally or socially imposed emotional aesthetics. So it’s not even really true to a person’s preference.

I’m a victim too. We all are. All of us. Everyone.

But here is the misunderstanding and my phrase: Aesthetics are subjective. Art is objective.

Art isn’t about what a person likes or dislikes. Art isn’t necessarily pretty. Art is neither bad nor good. Art is only what is. 

It’s the unexpected and the unintended. The imperfections. But also where the imperfect might cross paths with the less imperfect. It’s in the perfect too. – No. Perfect doesn’t exist. But in that fleeting perception of what we think is perfect – that’s where the art is. Art isn’t some mass produced reprint of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. But it is in the fact that  “Starry Night” is being mass produced. It is in the life that print will have when it’s being placed into a cheap Walmart poster frame. It doesn’t matter that it was made without human touch or emotion or meaning. It doesn’t matter where it’s going, what it’s doing, how “good” it is or how “pretty” or “ugly” it is.

The Art of art is in it’s making and the in it’s life after it’s made. It’s what the original artist was trying to do, what he/she didn’t do, the process of how they did it. It’s in the story the artist tells about it. And if that story isn’t satisfactory or if someone attaches a different emotion to the work – that’s the Art.

That isn’t to say a handsome still life isn’t art. Although it’s likely that the more accurate the image, the less art is actually there. I mean, you can make a picture perfect drawing of two elephants whose trunks are coming together to form a heart. I don’t care how accurate it is, that’s not art. Unless it’s ironic. That’s a different story though. – But then again, a real artist wouldn’t do that unironically.

Anyway, one day, when someone is at a yard sale and some hand-me-down 2’x2′ canvas wedged in between some old records and a dirty mirror is picked up by a customer, and that customer says, “Ugh. This art is crap.” No, dude. In your opinion the aesthetics are crap. And maybe it’s a widely accepted opinion. But the art is what you just did. The art is even that what’s on the canvas has a temporal value that has either changed or had different feelings attached to it through time. The art might even be that it’s bad aesthetically.

Because aesthetics are subjective. Art is objective.

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