Art & Beauty. What is Art? What is Beauty?

Art is something we do. Art is an expression of desires, emotions, intuitions, and our thoughts, but it's even more personal than that: it is about sharing how we encounter. It's the communication of intimate concepts that cannot be faithfully portrayed by words alone. And because words are not sufficient, we have to find another vehicle to carry our goal. However, the content that we instill on or in our media is not in itself the art. Art is available in the media is used, the way in.

What is beauty? Beauty is much more than cosmetic. There are loads of pretty pictures available at the local home but these we may not refer to as beautiful; and it is not difficult to find works of expression that we might agree are beautiful which are not necessarily pretty. Beauty is quite a measure of influence. Beauty is the indicator of successful communication between participants -- the conveyance of a theory between the artist and the perceiver. Artwork is successful in portraying the artist's most deep intended emotions, the theories that are desired, whether they're bright and pretty, or dark and menacing. But neither the artist nor the audience can be certain of successful communication in the long run. So beauty in art is subjective.

Wm. Joseph Nieters, Lake Ozark

Works of art may elicit a feeling of wonder or cynicism, despair or hope, adoration or spite; the work of art may be direct or complicated, explicit or subtle, intelligible or obscure; and the subjects and approaches to the creation of artwork are bounded only by the imagination of the artist. Consequently, I feel that defining artwork based upon its content is a doomed venture.

Now the study of art, a motif in aesthetics, is the claim that there is a detachment or distance between the stream of life and works of art. Thus, works of art rise from a present of concerns like islands. Onto an island and when you step from a river, you've reached your destination. Similarly, the attitude requires you to take care of artistic experience as an end-in-itself: artwork asks us attend to the manner in and to arrive empty of preconceptions. And even though a person can have an'aesthetic experience' of texture, flavor or a scene, art is different in that it is produced. Therefore, art is the communication of an experience as an end-in-itself. The content of that experience in its cultural context may determine whether the artwork is ridiculed or popular, significant or insignificant, but it's art either way.

One of the initial reactions to this approach may be that it seems too broad. An older brother who sneaks up behind his younger sibling and yells"Booo!" Can be said to be creating artwork. But isn't the difference between this and a Freddy Krueger movie just one of degree? On the other hand, Beautiful Art my definition would exclude graphics used in advertising or political propaganda, as they are made as a means to an end rather than for their own sakes. Additionally,'communication' is not the best word for what I have in mind since it suggests an unwarranted intention about the content. Cosmetic answers are often underdetermined by the artist's intentions.

Mike Mallory, Everett, WA

The difference between beauty and art is whereas beauty depends on who is looking that art is about who has generated it.


There are criteria of beauty -- what is viewed as'traditionally' beautiful. The game changers -- the square pegs, so to speak -- are people who watched traditional standards of beauty and decided specifically to go from them, perhaps merely to prove a point. Take Picasso, Munch, Schoenberg, to mention just three. They have made a stand against these standards in their artwork. Otherwise their art is like all other art: its only function is to be experienced, assessed, and known (or not).

Art is a means to state an opinion or a feeling, or else to create another perspective of the world, whether it be inspired by the work of others or something invented that's entirely new. Beauty is whatever aspect of anything else that makes an individual or that feel confident or thankful. Beauty is found in a snowy mountain scene: art is the photograph of it revealed to family, the oil interpretation of it hung in a gallery, or the music score recreating the scene in crotchets and quavers.

However, art is not necessarily positive: it can be intentionally hurtful or displeasing: it can make you think about or think about things that you would rather not. But if it evokes an emotion in you, then it's art.

Chiara Leonardi

Art is a method of grasping the world. Not only the physical world, which is what science tries to do; but the whole world, and especially, the human world, the world of society and religious experience.

Art emerged around 50,000 years ago, long before cities and civilisation, yet in forms to which we can nevertheless directly associate. The wall paintings in the Lascaux caves, which so startled Picasso, have been carbon-dated at about 17,000 years old. Now, after the invention of photography and the catastrophic attack made by Duchamp on the self-appointed Art Establishment [see Short Lives this issue], artwork cannot be simply defined on the basis of concrete tests like'fidelity of representation' or vague abstract concepts like'beauty'. To do this we will need to ask: What does art do? And the answer is surely that it provokes an reaction. One method of approaching the problem of defining art, then, is to say: Art consists of shareable ideas that have a shareable emotional effects. Art need not produce beautiful objects or events, because a great part of art could validly arouse emotions apart from those aroused by attractiveness, such as terror, anxiety, or laughter. However to derive an acceptable philosophical theory of art from this understanding means tackling the concept of'emotion' head on, and philosophers have been notoriously reluctant to do this. But not all of them: Robert Solomon's novel The Passions (1993) has made an excellent beginning, and this appears to me to be the way to go.

It won't be easy. Poor old Richard Rorty was jumped from a very great height when all he said was that literature, poetry, patriotism, love and things like that were philosophically significant. Art is vitally important to maintaining broad standards in civilisation. Its pedigree long predates philosophy, which is just 3,000 years old, and science, which is a mere 500 years old. Art deserves far more attention from philosophers.


Alistair MacFarlane, Gwynedd

Some years ago I went searching for art. To begin my trip I went into an art gallery. At that stage art to me was anything I found in an art gallery. I found paintings, mostly, and because they had been in the gallery I recognized them as art. A specific Rothko painting was one color and large. I observed a further piece that did not have an obvious label. It was also of one colour -- white -- and gigantically large, occupying one complete wall of this very high and spacious room and standing on small roller wheels. Why could one piece of work be considered'art' and the other not?

The answer to the question could, perhaps, be found in Berys Gaut's standards to determine if some artefact is art -- that art pieces work only as pieces of art, just as their creators intended.

Can they evoke an emotional response? Beauty is associated with art. There's sometimes an expectation of encountering a'beautiful' thing when going to see a work of art, be it sculpture, painting, book or performance. Of course, that expectation quickly changes as one widens the range of installations encountered.

Can we define beauty? Allow me to attempt by suggesting that beauty is the capacity of an artefact to elicit a pleasurable response that is emotional.

I didn't like Fountain in the level of admiration. There was skill, obviously, in its own construction. But what was the skill in its presentation as artwork?

So I began to reach a definition of art. A work of art is that which asks a question which a non-art object such as a wall does not: What am I? What am I communicating? The answers, both the creator artist and of the recipient audience, change, but they involve a reply to the invitation, a judgement to answer. The answer, too, goes towards deciphering that question -- the'Who am I?' Towards defining humanity which goes.

Neil Hallinan, Maynooth, Co.. Kildare

'Art' is where we create meaning beyond speech. Art consists in the making of meaning through agency, eliciting an reaction. It's a way of communication where language isn't enough to explain or describe its content. Art can render visible and understood what was previously unspoken. Because what art expresses and evokes is in part ineffable, we find it difficult to define and delineate it. It's known through the experience of the audience as well as the intention and expression of the artist. Of the participants make the meaning, and can not be fully known. It's multifarious and on-going. Even there is a debate a tension that is itself an expression of something.

Art drives the growth of a civilisation, both encouraging the institution and also preventing subversive messages from being silenced -- art leads, mirrors and reveals change in politics and politics. Art plays a central role in the creation of culture, and is an outpouring of ideas and thought from it, and therefore it can't be fully understood in isolation from its context. Ironically, however, art can communicate beyond language and time, linking communities and appealing to our common humanity. Maybe if wider audiences engaged with a greater assortment of the world's artistic traditions it could engender greater tolerance and mutual respect.

Another inescapable facet of art is that it's a commodity. The commodification of art also affects who is considered qualified to make art, comment on it, and even define it, as those who benefit most strive to keep the value of'art objects' high. These influences must feed into a culture's understanding of what art is at any time, making ideas about art culturally dependent. The stratification of art by value and the tension adds to its meaning, and the significance of art to society.

Catherine Bosley

First of all we have to recognize the obvious. 'Art' is a word, and concepts and words are organic and change their meaning through time. In the olden days, art meant craft. It was something you could excel at through practise and hard work. Through birth of individualism, artwork came to mean creativity. To do something new and never-heard-of defined the artist. His or her character became basically as important as the art itself. During the era of Modernism, the search for creativity led artists to reevaluate artwork. What could art do? What could it represent? Could you paint movement (Cubism, Futurism)? Basically: could anything be regarded as art? That is Institutionalism -- made famous.

Institutionalism has been the prevailing belief during the later part of the twentieth century, at least in academia, and I would say it still retains a firm grip on our conceptions. 1 example is the Swedish artist Anna Odell. Her movie sequence Unknown woman by many wasn't regarded as art, and 2009-349701, for that she faked psychosis to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, was debated. But it succeeded in breaking into the art world because the art world debated it, and is regarded as art, and Odell is considered an artist.

Naturally there are people who attempt to break out of the hegemony, for example by refusing to play by the art world's unwritten rules. Andy Warhol with his Factory was one, although the art world now totally embraces him. Another example is Damien Hirst, who, much like Warhol, pays people to produce the physical manifestations of his ideas. He sells his objects to individuals, and doesn't use galleries and other art arenas to advertise. This approach to capitalism is one method of attacking the art world's hegemony.

What does all this teach us about artwork? That art is a idea. We'll always have art, but in retrospect we will only learn for the most part what the art of our age was.

Tommy Törnsten

Art periods such as Classical, Byzantine, neo-Classical, Romantic, Modern and post-Modern reflect the changing nature of art in social and cultural contexts; and changing values are evident in varying content, styles and forms. These changes are surrounded, more or less in sequence, by Emotionalist, Imitationalist, Expressivist, Formalist and Institutionalist theories of art. In The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981), Arthur Danto claims a distinctiveness for artwork that inextricably links its cases with acts of observation, without which all that could exist are'substance counterparts' or'mere real things' rather than artworks. Notwithstanding the competing theories, works of art can be seen to possess'family resemblances' or'strands of resemblance' linking instances . Instances of artwork is simple, but a definition of art that contains all cases is elusive. Consequently, art has been claimed to be an'open' concept.

Gaining our aesthetic interest is at least a essential requirement of art. Sufficiency for something demands significance to art appreciators which endures long as tokens or types of the art persist. Such significance is sometimes attributed to items neither intended as art, nor intended to be perceived aesthetically -- for example, votive, devotional, functional or commemorative artefacts. Furthermore, aesthetic interests can be eclipsed by investment practices and social kudos. They could egregiously affect artistic authenticity when combined with celebrity and harmful types of narcissism. These interests spawn products masquerading as art, and can be overriding. Then it is up to discerning observers to spot any Fads, Fakes and Fantasies (Sjoerd Hannema, 1970).

Colin Brookes

For me art is nothing less and nothing more than the ability of people to express their understanding of some part of life, like love, conflict, fear, or pain. At this moment of discovery I realize my views may be those. That is due in large part to the media's ability. The commercial success of a performance or production becomes the metric by which artwork is now gauged: quality in art has been sadly reduced to equating great art with number of views sale of books, or the downloading of records. Too bad if sensibilities about a piece of art are lost in the rush for approval.

Where does this leave the abstract notion that beauty can still be seen in art? If beauty is the outcome of a procedure in which art gives pleasure to our senses, then it should remain a matter of discernment that is personal, even if external forces clamour to take control of it. To put it differently, nobody, for example, art critic, ought to be able to tell what is beautiful and what's not to the person. Art's world is one of a constant tension between encouraging acceptance and maintaining tastes.

Ian Malcomson, Victoria, British Columbia

What we perceive as beautiful does not offend us on any level. It is a judgement, a subjective opinion. A sight so pleasing to the senses or to the eye, A memory from once we gazed upon something amazing, oft time remains with us . I shall never forget walking into Balzac's home in France: the scent of lilies was so overpowering that I had a moment. The intensity of the emotion evoked may not be possible to explain. I don't feel it is important to debate why I think painting, a flower, sunset or the light is amazing. I disturb or don't expect myself that others will agree with me or not.

A thing of beauty is a whole; components coming together which makes it. A single brush stroke of a painting does not create the effects of attractiveness, but all together, it becomes beautiful. A flower is beautiful, when the petals all together form its perfection .

In considering the question,'What is beauty?' , I come away with the idea that I am. Suffice it to say, of what strikes me as amazing, my personal assessment is all I want to know.

Kenilworth, cheryl Anderson, Illinois

The beauty of whose are we talking about? Whose happiness?

If a snake made art, consider. Snakes have poor eyesight and detect the world through heat-sensing pits, or through a chemosensory organ, the Jacobson's organ. Would a movie in its form even make sense to a snake? So their beauty, their artwork, would be alien to ours: it would not be visual, and they would be overseas if they had songs ; after all, snakes do not have ears, they feel vibrations. Art would be sensed, and tunes would be felt, if it's even possible to conceive that thought.

From this perspective -- a view low to the ground -- we could see that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. It may cross our lips to speak in language, but we do with a forked tongue if we do seriously. The joys of representing beauty shouldn't to fool us into believing attractiveness, as some abstract idea, truly exists. It requires a context and a viewer, and the value we place on certain combinations of sounds or colours over others speaks of nothing more than taste. Our desire for pictures, moving or otherwise, is because our organs evolved in this way. A snake wouldn't have any use for the world.

I would undoubtedly be amazed at serpentine artwork, although I am thankful to have artwork over snake art. It would need an sloughing of conceptions we take for granted. If snakes could write poetry: for that, considering the possibility of the extreme thought is worthwhile, what could it be?

Derek Halm, Portland, Oregon

[A: Sssibilance and sussssuration -- Ed.]

The questions, 'What is art?' Are different kinds and should not be conflated.

To a' relative-off' , almost all contemporary discussers of artwork lapse with predictability that is boring , whereby they move to annoying lengths to demonstrate how receptive they are and how loose that is ineluctably the idea of art is. Can we end the conversation there, if art is just whatever you want it to be? It's a done deal. Playdough'll throw on to a canvas, and we could pretend to exhibit our credentials of acceptance and insight. This just doesn't work, and we all know it. If art is to mean anything, there has to be some working definition of what it is. Then there ends the discussion if art can be anything to anyone at anytime. What makes art special -- and worth discussing -- is that it noises, or stands above or outside everyday things, paintwork, such as meals. Art comprises music, paintings, and exceptional or special dishes.

Briefly, I believe there should be at least two factors to tag something as'art'. The first is that there should be something recognizable in the way of'reception'. I mean to say, there has to be the recognition that something was created for an audience of some kind enjoy, discuss or to receive. Implicit in this point is the evident recognizability of what the artwork actually is -- in other words, the author doesn't have to tell you it's artwork once you otherwise would not have any idea. The point is the recognition of skill: some skill that is obvious needs to be involved in making art. This are the minimum requirements -- or definition -- of art. Some definition is required to make anything at all art, even if you disagree with the particulars. Otherwise, what are we discussing? I'm breaking the mold and request brass tacks.

Brannon McConkey, Tennessee

Writer of Student of Life: Why Becoming Engaged in Life, Art, and Philosophy Can Cause a more happy Existence

Human beings appear to have a compulsion to categorize, to organize and define. However in the past century, we also have learned to take pleasure from the manifestation of perceptions; our artistic ways of listening and seeing have expanded to encompass irregularity and disharmony. In between there are many that both locate and provide, and people who abjure both extremes pleasure both in craftsmanship that is practising and in establishing a vision.

There will always be tensions around the appropriateness of our comprehension, and a challenge to traditional notions of art from the shock of the new. As innovators push at the boundaries, that is how things should be. At exactly the same time, we will continue to relish the beauty of a mathematical formula, a finely-tuned machine, a successful scientific experimentation, the technology of landing a probe on a comet, an accomplished poem, a striking portrait, the sound-world of a symphony. We apportion meaning and significance to what we find of value and wish to share with our fellows. Our definitions of beauty and our artwork reflect our character and the multiplicity of our creative efforts.

In the long run, because of our individuality and our diverse histories and traditions, our debates will remain inconclusive. If we are wise, we'll look and listen with an open soul, and occasionally with a wry smile observing the diversity of achievements and human imaginings.

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