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What is Art?

"Dream Tide" by C. Brennecke

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of art. There have, of course, been many opinions and arguments on the matter made by greater minds than me, but instead of exploring what’s already been said by others, I’d like to capture the thoughts of my own that stand out the most.

Art is what we want it to be, what we need it to be, what it happens to be, and quite simply, what it is.

There have been times where I have dismissed or complained about a particular piece of art being presented as art. For my own methods of creating art, there is almost always an intention, as well as a certain amount of time, that goes into the art. Because of this, I’ve had a hard time acknowledging pieces like Duchamp’s “Fountain,” as well as “5-minute-craft” paintings, as art. BUT, as soon as I try to pin down a stipulation of what art must be or not be, then comes along an exception to the rule. And one thing I’ve consistently observed about art, is that it always provides an exception. Full stop.

So what exactly is it then? I can't prescribe an answer to others, but for me, at its core, art is a method of communication. But there are a few qualities that set it apart from (most) other communication methods.

  • In most cases, the exchange of communication is—or appears to be—unilateral. But here’s where it gets interesting: Oftentimes the core recipient of that communication is the artist themself. And they might not be aware of it! But, through the process of creating art, they are observing and responding to the art with each proceeding step of creation. And many artists will agree that the art can “speak to” them, alerting them as to what it needs or when it is done. So the artist starts the communication via art, but also receives the communication via art. This means that art can exist as a form of communication even without an outside audience to observe it.

  • Art transcends time. For as long as it is physically able to be preserved and observed, it continues to connect to an audience. This is especially interesting in cases where an artist wasn’t recognized in their time, but rose to fame after their death. The target audience for their art didn’t exist at the time of its creation, so in a way, they were starting a conversation with the future, and that’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.

  • Art is wildly inclusive. Nearly any object, activity, technology, or method of thinking or doing anything, can be declared an art. A quick search for “the art of” on Amazon tells me that seduction, shaving, not giving a f*ck, happiness, gathering, racing in the rain, french cooking, and letting go are all considered art. And who am I to argue?

  • Art defies all rules—even the ones I’ve mentioned above!

Art is what we want it to be, what we need it to be, what it happens to be, and quite simply, what it is. And it can enrich all of our lives, whether we are the artists, the observers, or living, breathing forms of art ourselves.

All that said, I'd love to know—what is art to you?


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