But is it art? (Part 1)

The following is from my post, “What’s the big idea?

You may think these ideas are unimportant when it comes to actually producing works of art, but I think having an idea of what one believes is beautiful is at the heart of one’s approach to one’s own work. I know, this view is very out-dated. The art world has a scope that deals with… well, everything, and artwork is not required to be beautiful. Visual art, as is the case with all creative mediums, works on its own terms.

What is most important to me is that my experiences with art matter to me on a personal level. There is so much going on out there and I don’t want to miss anything that could totally blow my mind. On the other hand, there is so much going on out there that it’s often a hit or miss. Easing myself into the art world has thus been a slow process.

Freeland, But is it art

I begin the new year by continuing to slowly ease myself into the art world, as I simultaneously work through a much neglected personal library with a small (7″ x 5″) book, called But is it art? (2002), by Cynthia Freeland.

Note: I would like to think of these posts not as book reviews but responses to what I read. It’s quite lengthy, so I’ve broken down my response and I begin with a set of questions. 

1) The author is a professor of philosophy, which I found interesting. When I think of modern art, I think of it as a philosophical field, where one may apply certain ideas and let them play out and be seen or considered on an aesthetic and/or intellectual level. The product does not have to be beautiful; it simply has to make you think, and to me, that sounds like philosophy, only with a lot of bells and whistles and shiny bits.

2) In her introduction, Freeland notes how the definition of art has changed and is different even among the various cultures of the world today. If the definition of art has never been the same, it seems that to look at art as a single idea, one needs the lens of an anthropologist, more than an artist or even a philosopher… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

3) What about “meaning” in art? If a work of Literature (with a capital “L”) has only “pretty language,” it’s not enough. Can we say the same for a work in the visual arts? On the other hand, if beauty is enough, what makes one work of beauty a work of “fine” art and another work not “fine” art?

4) There’s a lot one doesn’t like, which we call art, officially. What do curators look for? I’m sure it’s different for every gallery, but I’m assuming there are some general ideas which most art enthusiasts believe applicable to modern art even if that may change or is not necessarily true everywhere… ??

5) If a draughtsman tried to sell a work of art similar to something drawn during the Italian Renaissance, would it be worth as much? Can a work of art really be more valuable for its provenance? If so, can we really credit the increase in value to its fineness as a work of art or is the increase in value only a product of market influences, where profiting from the game of making investments is just as important as actually engaging with the work off art?

6) Should we be looking at value or appeal? How can we determine if it is valuable, let alone quantify its value?

I think Freeland gets into all of this in her book, but I am only going by the contents. It’s also a small book, so it’s really a small introduction to some very big issues in the art world today.

Please stay tuned for more or follow along by reading and commenting on this book as well.

New Year’s Resolution

Over the years, I have amassed over 420 books. I buy some, I trade some. I’ve actually sold a few I’d purchased on Amazon back to Amazon buyers for cash (via the link where you don’t see who the buyer is) and then a few years later bought the exact same books back. I have a problem. I like books, but I think I really like spending money. It seems to promise you a kind of joy which is limited only by one’s imagination. Yes, this blender can change my life. I will eat healthy from now on because of this blender. Yes, this sweater can change how I feel about myself. I look damn good in this sweater. Yes, this book will give me an experience that can be added to all those other experiences I’ve had and think of whenever I see my book shelves full of books. I feel smarter just looking at them.

Well, there lies the problem. Since college, I’ve maintained a personal library half full of unread books. It really has been 50%, as I’ve read some, traded or sold some, and bought even more. I would like to work through my library and see if I really like all my books.

For this reason, I’m going to expand the scope of this blog. This means, every now and then, I’ll be spending some time responding to old books. It may not be every week, as I am an incredibly slow reader ( I tend to over-analyze everything), but it should be enough to make me feel like I am making progress… in life.

Some books really are very old, and about a year ago I did finish “minimizing” my library. (It took about one to two years for the same reason I am making this New Year’s Resolution), and now I am staring at over 200 yet-to-be-read books that I could not bear to let go of. To my credit, many of these are academic books or books on philosophy or heavy duty history books, but there are a few books of fiction and art history as well, which are screaming to be appreciated and to bestow upon me the knowledge I should already have by now.

Well, here it goes…