Which one is Art?
I don’t get esoteric often. The following article is why. I don’t do it well. I’m a plebe. A common guy. I can’t intellectualize given (as Spurgeon would say about preachers with little lung power) my “slender apparatus.” But an article I read the other day got my juices going.
The article – you can find it at the Arts & Letters Daily if you want to – referred to that now famous quote by Pablo Picasso that “sex and art are the same thing.” He wasn’t just wrong, that’s stupid. It is that kind of disjointed thinking that often emerged in his disjointed “art.”
You can call anything art. Robert Maplethorpe submerged a crucifix in urine and that got called art. Its not. Its blasphemy. But that raises the question of how one, anyone, defines art. The American Heritage Dictionary (on-line edition) holds these entries in an attempt at definition:
1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
a. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.
b. The study of these activities.
c. The product of these activities; human works of beauty considered as a group.
3. High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.
4. A field or category of art, such as music, ballet, or literature.
5. A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.
a. A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building.
b. A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer.
a. Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of the baker; the blacksmith’s art.
b. Skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties: “Self-criticism is an art not many are qualified to practice” (Joyce Carol Oates).
a. arts Artful devices, stratagems, and tricks.
b. Artful contrivance; cunning.
9. Printing. Illustrative material.
2 a. isn’t bad. But it isn’t there yet. Because it does not go far enough. It fails where most do. It stops at the beauty and technicality of execution. It hints at purpose, but doesn’t quite make it. Hence, I propose my own definition of art.
Art is: Both the act and product, of message and medium skillfully bound together aesthetically so as to inform, ennoble, elevate and inspire the sentient being in experiencing and musing upon the beauties of God.
Such skillful merging of message and medium may be found in a confluence and arrangement of say – form, color and texture, or; word, syntax and meter, or; tone, tempo, voice and harmonics; etc. But why it is done and what it is meant to evoke cannot be separated from the things itself.
Art then is as much aim as it is act. As much purpose as performance. Anything less may be artistic, yet fail to be art. Mere excellence in execution is not equal to elevation. It is how anything from photography to poetry can become pornography.
And so it is art may be found in anything from cooking to digging ditches. It is wrought in the grand eloquence of the humblest laborer who strives not merely to discharge their “duty”, but takes thought to present it done well as unto God. It is in this way, much that is not sublime in its manifest expression, may be nonetheless truly and profoundly – art.
Be an artist. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (Col. 3:17 & 23)