Is it Art or is it Not?

A few years ago, I read an interesting thread on an art forum.
The title was, “That’s Art?”
So many posters had so many varying ideas about what art is and what it isn’t. Some argued against modern art and some praised it. Some said that art had to be beautiful while others said it must be skillful. Some said it had to make a statement. One felt that art was “reborn” when it broke away from realism.

There was also a discussion concerning a canvas, which was painted black and titled, “Night”. Is it art? Many said, “yes”, some said, “no”.

I like to evaluate and measure art based on the premise that art is “creative expression”. Real art is driven by the need to express something that simple, fact-filled words or detailed diagrams cannot suffice. What’s needed is creativity, poetry, finesse, flair, whatever you might call it – something that raises the level of communication to where one is really moved or touched by the artist’s work. And, if no one is moved by the work, then it fails to fulfill its purpose to that degree, and fails to be genuine, meaningful art.

Still, I do believe that the qualification of art is all-inclusive. It simply has to be a crafted work presented to an audience. Through some medium, paint, for example, the artist communicates a thought or message. Whether his art deeply moves people or is just balked at, it is still art, technically. It may not be very effective – lack of skill or vision may have stifled his efforts – but it is still art.

Now, of course, there is a vast difference between what merely “passes” as art and really great art. Consider this. If an artist, who has great skill, painted something very realistic, but fails to move anyone, while another artist, with less skill, composes a very profound image with only a few strokes of paint and it really moves the viewer, who has created the greater art?

Art cannot equate to skill. We already have sophisticated devices, like cameras and computers, that can “skillfully” “paint” images. Skill is not what defines art! An emotion, thought, statement, feeling and then having the skill to effectively communicate it to another…that is art. By definition, art must be something that can’t be generated by a computer.

Even though art is not merely skill, it does require some skill in order for good art to be effective and meaningful. It is not just communication of an emotion, but skillful communication of an emotion, skilled in a way that the artist carefully chooses colors, composes forms and constructs the elements of a work in a way that best communicates his message.

Communication involves two elements, the presenter and the receiver. Effectiveness of the art depends on both. The better the artist and the resulting work and the better the reception by the viewer, the better the art. If the receiver doesn’t “get it”, then the art is not effective and its value is diminished – the actual value of art changes depending on who is looking at it and the experience they have!

So, is it art or is it not? As the viewer, the answer is completely up to you.

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