Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What is Art?

I have asked myself for years...What is Art. I have wrestled with its real purpose? It is beautiful, for sure, but does its value end there. Is art merely for the beautification of our lifescapes? Home, lawn and business? Who determines what is beautiful? Furthermore what is art's value? To me as a creator, to the individual viewer, to us as a whole? Can it value be measured by the size of it's price tag? I have wondered about these things for years. It was in the midst of such pondering, one night, I grabbed an old book off the shelf. I had originally bought it years ago to paint on its cover as altered art, but I never had the heart to do it. It was so beautifully worn, still and warm. Someone had not only owned this book, but it was loved. How it came to be for sale for 10 cents at the budget shop I will never know. But that night, I was positively drawn to it and, and opened it to an essay entitled simply ART. How delightful and fortuitous. As I read it, the book so old, and paper brittle as I would turn the page, it often would separate from the binding. So there I sat, spellbound and awestruck at its lyric, as it fell apart in my arms, breathing it's last will and testament, I gently cradled it, and realized I was in love........ Here is an excerpt from what I read that day.

(copyright free, public domain)
ART Essay by Ralph Waldo Emmerson, second series, 1844

But the artist must employ the symbols in use in his day and nation, to convey his enlarged sense to his fellow-men. Thus the new in art is always formed out of the old. The Genius of the Hour sets his ineffaceable seal on the work, and gives it an inexpressible charm for the imagination. As far as the spiritual character of the period overpowers the artist, and finds expression in his work, so far it will retain a certain grandeur, and will represent to future beholders the Unknown, the Inevitable, the Divine. No man can quite exclude this element of Necessity from his labor. No man can quite emancipate himself from his age and country, or produce a model in which the education, the religion, the politics, usages, and arts, of his times shall have no share. Though he were never so original, never so wilful and fantastic, he cannot wipe out of his work every trace of the thoughts amidst which it grew.

I had my answer, more that mere decoration for our dwellings. True art finds it's it's beauty and purpose in it's ability to cause it's viewers to pause and take notice of the reality of a temporal exsisitence, and give place to the beauty of it's being. Art is the point of origin, not the mere destination of marketing. It is the best place to start!

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