What Is Art?

Have you ever had the opportunity to participate in this debate?  I remember when I was a student in art school and I had an art philosophy class where all we did the whole semester was debate this question.  I can’t say there was ever any final conclusion and I suspect that is the way the professor wanted it to be.  Over the years as I have considered this question I have come to my own conclusions and I think this personal paradigm has defined the way I view myself as an artist.

In the simplest definition I would say “art” is a human expression of emotion which can be perceived through any of the human senses.  You can see it, touch it, read it, etc.  In my mind there are many  levels or classifications of art.  There is art which lifts the human spirit and there is art which depresses or degrades.  There is art which is political and art which gives us warm fuzzies.  There is art which everyone understands and can appreciate and art which only the artist himself can understand.  In my view, the greatest art of all is that which reaches the viewer on more than a superficial level; touches something inside them which is not easily reached.   It inspires them without preaching.   It says to them,“You’ve seen me before.”  And yet you have never seen anything completely like it.  The way the art is handled is unique, and yet you don’t feel distracted by the complexity or craftiness of the creation process.  When you walk away your subconscious never allows you to forget what you have seen because it has become a part of you.  You have been changed forever.  This is great art, the art to which every artist should aspire.  If an artist were to paint even one painting in their lifetime that crossed into this realm of “Great Art” they would have created a masterpiece and made a worthy contribution to humanity.  Of all the piles of art in the world, there are few true masterpieces.  Not all hang in museums.


Jon McNaughton

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