by Sarah Kelly
April 1 - May 20, 2007
"Art has not always been how we think of it today. In late Antiquity the arts consisted of the seven arts liberals, the liberal arts: Grammer, Logic, Rhetoric, Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy, and Music. On a lower level stood the technical arts such as architecture, agriculture, painting, sculpture, and other skills. Art as we define it today was merely looked upon as a craft. For example, painting was and is considered a form of art. On the other hand, a child’s toy would have been constructed and seen as an amusement piece for a child. Today, dolls, action figures, model cars, etc. are collected, appreciated, and admired by adults and children alike. In some cases, items such as these are displayed and taken care of nearly as meticulously as objects on display in a museum. So, in the opinion of this writer, the context of that object has been altered allowing the object to acquire the pretense of its surroundings. As a result, today’s definitions, expectations, and standards are increasingly elastic.
We often have trouble expressing why we respond to a work of art the way we do. We worry about being judged, and can be hesitant to display our true feelings in fear of not being “right.” Why do we do this? Are there any procedures for being right, regarding which objects genuinely have artistic value? What are the relative roles of feeling, liking, and reason in our responses to art? Does reason even play a role? These are just a few questions I have come to ask as I have researched the topic of what defines art.
The notion of art is a relatively modern term; however, the notion of what art is, has been a question that academics have pondered for thousands of years. Notably, Aristotle posed and wrote on this particular question and debated its meaning and role in society. An object regarded as art today, may not have been perceived as such when it was first made. Many objects that we identify as art today, were made in times and places when people had a different concept of art from what we have now. Essentially these objects were appreciated and often admired in various ways but certainly they are not defined as art by currently held standards.
The concept of art lacks a rigid definition. We are now less capable of classifying restrictive boundaries for art. It is easier to describe the way something is done, rather than what it is. In the end, there is no easy answer to this question –it’s similar to asking, “what is the meaning of life.”
Instead of expecting to find an answer to this difficult question, I hoped to bring awareness and expand pre-conceived notions of how many individuals define what art is. "