Monday, June 9, 2014

On the Meaning of Art

I usually have a bit of an issue with Oscar Wilde--and with the aesthetes in general. I can't feel that aesthetics are all there is to beauty and therefore to art. Art involves aesthetics, certainly, but I can never place as much value on aesthetics as Oscar Wilde and others do. I consider art expression as well as beauty--and the expression itself can be beautiful, apart from straight aesthetics.

But then we run into another question: whose expression? Is it personal expression, as in the expression of the artist? Does that mean expression as direct from the artist's perspective or not? Is it expression of the character/speaker/etc? Is it expression of a culture? How much separation is there, after all, between the artist and the speaker and between the artist and the culture? It's a web of lines, intertwining back and forth, and that perhaps is why people have such differing explanations of what art is.

Art is vision given physical form. Physical form can, of course, also mean words: it's the distinction between things within and outside the mind. Aesthetics, on their own, have no vision. The shape of a circle is aesthetically pleasing, but without vision it is nothing. The small metal mirror hanging on the wall in front of me is beautiful not just because it is a circle; it is beautiful because it is handmade, shaped into perfection and punched with a pattern of small dots and delicate edging; it is beautiful because of the hands that made it.

That's why not everyone agrees about what is beautiful: beauty is more than aesthetics. And if art were simply aesthetics, artists would have run out of creation long ago. I see beauty when I look outside, at the shades of brown and white and yellow and green that stretch toward the mountains of blue that look up toward the broad and bold sky. Someone else sees beauty in the curved metal of their car. We can both see that the other has a valid concept of beauty, even if we don't see things in the same way. And that is where the expression side of art comes in.

Art is aesthetics with the personal perspective added in. Art isn't just the artist speaking to you directly out of their thoughts. But it is shaped by how the artist sees the world. I am of the land and any art that I create, in some way, expresses that identity. Some artists love simplicity and clean lines, and viewers who love the same will connect with their art and enjoy it.

That's what it's about: the artist connects with the art he creates, and then the viewer connects with the art the artist has made. It's about connection . . . so then art is language. Language is a collection of forms and rules but only receives life from the mind that controls and forms it.

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