Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Monday, April 28, 2008

What and Where Is Art?

Success! I seem to have fixed the font problem--for now.

In my first post, I talked a little about how art can touch the spirit. I do not seek to define art, but I find it necessary to give some sort of statement about what I consider art to be. There are many sources out there providing discussions of what constitutes art and I encourage you to take a look at some of them. There is even the question of whether art can be defined. Ask yourself, "What is art?" and see what you come up with. I think our initial reaction might be that art is something that is aesthetically pleasing, but that is certainly not always the case, especially when each individual has his or her own idea of aesthetics.

Art is certainly something that touches the senses, but it does not always have a positive effect. Each of us has our own idea of what is pleasing to the senses. Beauty truly does lie in the eye [or mind] of the beholder. I say that art is that which stimulates the senses or the mind by conveying ideas or emotions in a variety of ways. There is visual art, auditory art, performance art, and art that comes from the skillful manipulation of materials. We could call this latter type of art "craft," but where do we draw the line between art and craft? Is one spiritually uplifting and the other mundane, ordinary? Is there a level of execution, manipulation, and mastery of the materials and skills that elevates craft to art? What is the difference between a craftsman and an artisan? I will leave you to answer those questions in your own way.

Rather than attempting to define art and list all of its many variations, I prefer to think about the many ways I encounter and experience art throughout the day. This raises another question: Is art that which is only produced by human beings? I believe that art, or that which stimulates the senses, is not limited to being an expression of human creativity. I believe that art also is found in the natural world. For me, art is all around us. I am surrounded by the art I find in nature as well as the art that is created by my fellow humans. Each time I step outside or share the company of my non-human companions, I have the opportunity to experience art: that which stimulates the senses or the mind by conveying ideas or emotions. To illustrate this, I leave you with a poem by William Wordsworth (another of those memorized in high school--gee, we did a lot of that back in the Dark Ages). The photo is from a few days spent at Destin last summer.

"My heart leaps up when I behold"

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man:
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

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