Thursday, November 25, 2010

Art College Essay

Art has always been a permanent companion of human civilization throughout history. But we live in an age where art loses its centerpiece place in peoples’ lives. In an age when technology and what is fashionable seem to define the standards for beauty and creativity, one must ask the age-old question: What is art?  The dictionary says that art is “the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or the emotions”. These “elements” are visual art, literature, theatre, music, dance, and recently, cinematography. However, what really is art? We cannot call everything that is created for the purpose of affecting the senses art. Our senses change, as does the definition, which changes from generation to generation. Is art a question of quality that, as a society, we know in an intrinsic way? Are we born with this ability to differentiate or do we “learn” it from the people around us? Is art what the public consensus is or is it what the critics profess it is? Is it our personal likes and dislikes or is it above us? What is the place of art in a modern society and is it still relevant in the 21st century?

John Locke, one of the most influential philosophers of the 17th century, believed that when we are born, we are tabula rasa (blank slates) and that we acquire all knowledge during our lives through experience and perception, rather than having an amount of pre-conceptual knowledge. When we first see a painting or read a book, we form opinions about the work, but others (either authority figures or peers) usually tell us whether it is “good” or not in order for us to constitute its worth. However, the public can, at times, be misguided about whom it prefers. For example, during his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh was largely unknown (he sold one painting), yet today, his work is considered one of the greatest of all time. The tragedy is that the public recognized his pieces after years of them sitting in galleries and only started appreciating them after his death. That being said, critics are not always correct either. Throughout history, it was common for many critics and patrons to show their preference for certain artists simply because of political or personal reasons without there being an actual artistic basis for their decision to endorse one artist over another. For example, the academic art community considered William-Adolphe Bouguereau one of the greatest painters in the world in his time and millionaires bought his pieces. However, his work soon fell into anonymity due to the public’s changing tastes and the rise of Impressionism. One’s own likes and dislikes cannot only be the criteria for art either. A person can like one painting and another person can like another painting, yet both paintings can be seen as terrible to a third person.

I believe that art should stand the test of time, the test of generation after generation of societies all over the world sensing a personal and emotional reaction to the piece. Neither the public nor the critics must acclaim the work immediately, but someone else besides one’s mother must find the art valuable. In addition, the value of the work should not wilt over time, but on the contrary, should stay stable as time progresses.

            The issue of art may not be such an important one at first sight. Most people who live in today’s society aren’t artists or writers and some of us don’t go to museums or read. We don’t think we care, but in reality, we all do in an indirect way. Art is vital to a society’s growth and without it; we would cease to truly be human. The ancient Greeks believed that what makes us truly unique and complete as human beings is art. In every community across the world, no matter its economic status, art exists. In a world without art,we would still have the sciences and technology, but we would not have what makes us truly alive. Art allows us to express ourselves in numerous ways and provides additional meaning and happiness to our lives. Whether we make art or only view the end product, we are all influenced and shaped by it in an essential way. The age-old debate of whether art is necessary for humanity is ended by Karl Paulnack who explains: "In a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. Art is proof of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say 'I am alive, and my life has meaning’.”

The purpose of art haunts me every time I write. Since I was young, writing has been the core method through which I have been able to express myself as an individual. I started writing prose and lyrics at thirteen. A year later, I discovered the world of poetry. Recently, I have been writing formal pieces on social issues and literary critiques. Though I don’t expect to publish my work, I hope I will because I never fully write for myself. What I write, I encourage others to read, to critique, and to give feedback so I know the reactions my work has produced. My goal is to communicate with others, to show my readers what I believe, and to gain insight into what they believe also. In addition, I strive to produce the best material I can and am continuously trying to improve my style of writing and become the best writer I can be. I cannot say that I need to write for literal survival, as I’m sure that if I stopped right now, I would not die. However, if someone persuaded me to do so, I would feel as though an essential part of my life was missing.

1 comment:

  1. Science makes models of the forces and processes of nature. Technology seeks to use scientific models for the benefit of man. Doesn't Art makes models of the world to affect our perspective and relationships? I'm not sure that there is ultimately any distinction. One is more quantitative, the other more qualitative.