On Saturday my girlfriend and I went on a date to our local art gallery. We saw exhibits that highlighted maritime culture, such as an exhibit dedicated to recording the Newfoundland words for different types of ice. We also saw some very culturally impressive pieces by Dali and Warhol and a 700-year-old carving of biblical stories in ivory. And after I left the gallery I started to think about what art is.
What defines art? What makes a piece of art important, or good, or valuable?
While we were in the gallery, my girlfriend mentioned the way the gallery was constructed. The way the lighting was in different rooms that gave them their own feel. The reason behind that bright colors of some rooms and white walls for different styles. Or even how the windows in the place were placed and how they were shaped. I had noticed on the way in that built into the stairs was the names of the architect and the person in charge of building the gallery. In its own way, the gallery itself was a work of art, signed by its creators.
As to the actual works of art in the gallery, I had many emotions. I have thought a lot of everything I saw, and felt. The exhibit that brought out the most emotion for me was not the famous works of art that towered over me but one of painting done by local children. These paintings were each accompanied by a story. Stories that read “it took me five days to make this” or “this is a painting of me and my mother fishing”. The more of the stories I read the more I smiled.
When I got home from my day of looking at art, I realized I had taken two pictures of art that day. One was a picture of a painting done by Dali featuring the woman my university residence is named after, and the second was of a piece of street art.
I found this piece of street art captivating enough to take a picture with it. In my phone, these two pieces of art are hanging next to each other. What makes one painting more valuable than the other? Would anyone protest if that piece of street art was painted over? Would anyone protest for Dali?
To me, art is something that exists purely to provoke an emotional response. Art can be useful or not. Art can be made of any medium. I also believe that it is wholly possible to have art that does not fit this definition.
Or perhaps art is whatever enough people believe is art. Maybe art is something constructed by society.
As a philosophy student, I ask a lot of questions. I don’t think that the question “what is art?” is one that can be answered. I think it’s a lot like the questions “what happens to us after we die?” or “what does it mean to be human?”. No matter how you answer the question, someone can always argue against it.
This is a denser than my usual ones. I had meant to write about my experience with NaNoWriMo this year but I ended up being swamped with school work and I had this swimming around in my head so I decided I’d post this instead.
If you want to check out the art gallery I will link to the website here. Have a lovely first-week full week of December, my usually scheduled content will resume next Monday.