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My Definition of Art

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My Definition of Art

        The question concerning “the meaning of art” is a confounding one because the term ‘art’ covers an assortment of media, from music and theater, to opera, performing arts, literature, dance, as well as plastic arts of sculpture and painting. It can also be expanded to include performance sports, such as gymnastics, water ballet, and ice-skating. Therefore, searching for a common definition that encompasses a wide variety of are productions from the latest films to the earliest forms of rock art and cave drawings can be particularly difficult. Such a definition would have to recognize both Fountain (a 1917 work in the form of a porcelain urinal produced by Marcel Duchamp) and Pietà (Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Renaissance sculpture) as equally as art. The most agreed upon definition views art as anything that is non-natural, or anything made by humans and which does not simply exist in nature. However, even this definition can be tested say, using the concept of ‘Found Objects,’ which describes art created from natural objects that are not traditionally considered materials for making art. For instance, sculptor Henry Moore collected flints and bones that he treated as natural sculptures. Therefore, I define art as an expression of human emotions, thoughts, desires, experiences, and institutions by communicating concepts that are difficult to portray through words alone.

        Works of art might evoke a sense of skepticism or doubt, spitefulness or admiration, optimism or despondency. They may also be explicit or subtle, complex or simple and direct, or ambiguous or comprehensible; and the theme and approaches to creating art are often influenced by the artist’s own imagination. As a result, I am of the conviction that basing the definition of art on its content is an ill-fated undertaking. A common theme in aesthetics, or the branch of science that deals with the study of art, is the argument that a detachment exists between the events of daily life and the works of art. Therefore, works of art derive from a stream of more practical concerns. When one steps out of an aircraft and proceeds to the waiting lounge, he would have reached his destination. Likewise, the aesthetic attitude demands that artistic experience is treated as an end in itself. Art demands that the individual be devoid of any preconceptions and addresses the manner in which he or she experiences the work of art; and while people may aesthetically experience nature, texture, or flavor, art is different in the sense that it is created or produced. In this regard, I consider art as the deliberate communication of an experience as an end in its own right.

        Even though the cultural context of the content of the aforementioned experience determines whether the work of art is admired or scoffed at, noteworthy or insignificant, it is still considered art nonetheless. My definition does not include graphics intended for political propaganda or product advertisement since these are usually created not for their sake, but to achieve a predetermined end. Simply put, an artist’s intentions do not determine aesthetic responses. Kara Walker’s sculpture A Subtlety, fits tidily with my definition of art. The work consists of an entourage of despondent, life-size figures of young boys holding vases (Cornish 1). The figures are all made from brown sugar and molasses. A mammoth sphinx-like sugar baby, made from blocks of Styrofoam and refined white sugar, rise behind the figures of young boys. Created in 2014, the Walker’s work is not only colossal in its scale, but also critical in its aptness and necessity. As noted previously, I consider art as an expression of human emotions, thoughts, desires, experiences, and institutions by communicating concepts that are difficult to portray through words alone.

        A Subtlety, which is also known as the Marvelous Sugar Baby, is installed at the dilapidated Domino Sugar Factory in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City. It is considered among the greatest works of art of the twenty-first century. A gigantic sugarcoated woman-sphinx with irrefutably black characteristics and donning only earring and an Aunt Jemima headscarf, the sculpture is engaging, barefaced, and distressing. Most importantly, it is deeply infused with statements that both extol and indict. A Subtlety throws possible interpretations and ineluctable meaning at the viewer. It pays homage to overworked and underpaid or unpaid artisans who have toiled so hard in the cane fields. In keeping with my definition that art is an expression of human emotions, thoughts, desires, and experiences, it becomes obvious that the forceful presence of Walker’s sculpture empowers subaltern voices, women, and the supporters of equality and social justice. It is also a strong message against the continued legacy of racial discrimination and slavery in not only the United States, but also around the world. In fact, Walker views her work as an attempt to “get a grasp on history” because the scholarly conversation about race in America has been inconclusive (Cornish 1).

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