What is Art?

There are a lot of debates about what is art? Is it a beautiful painting? A grand opera or perhaps a chamber orchestra playing something by Mozart …

Well, I assume Mozart wrote music for chamber orchestras.  I don’t know for sure and don’t really have time to go look it up. I did take both piano and violin lessons as a child, but don’t recall exactly what Mozart wrote.  The movie they did about him was nice, but a bit tragic at the end.

Years/decades ago , I took a college class called, “Humanities 1A” which really should have been called, “Art Appreciation 101.”  It was one of those freshman survey classes and I needed the three units for my GE art class requirement so I signed up.  It was easy.  They did some lectures and for assignments we had to see a play, go to an art gallery, watch a modern dance concert, and write little reports on it.  It was kind of fun and I got an A in the class – well, I think everyone got an A.  In fact, it was kind of hard to fail the class.

One of the first questions we were asked was, “What is art?”

The class was broken up into small groups to discuss and present our answer to the class.  My group discussed it for a while and noted that even ugly things could be art.  We came to this view after describing a new sculpture that was put in the student union that week.  It wasn’t good looking and we all hated it, but it was clearly creative, and likely, “art”

So we decided that art was, “That which creates an emotional response in the viewer.”

That’s been my position ever since.

Thank you for reading my blog.

What? Oh, are you going to be like my English teacher and write, “More” or “Expand” at the bottom of this blog post?  Many of my college English teachers would do that.  I’d turn in these nice, tight, short essays or research papers and my professors seemed to think I could say more about the subject.  I guess my creative writing professor was wrong when he said, “Less is more.”

Well, maybe, but not if you’re a professor of literary criticism.  Oh my gosh, those people want you to write a five thousand word analysis of a twenty word poem …

Okay, I’ve done that, and I’ll submit that the resulting critical paper was brilliant and possibly art (by my definition) because if you read the whole thing you’d be left in a state of total confusion which could be argued as an, “emotional response.”

So many people in our world say that they aren’t artists and don’t create art, but if you think about it, there are a lot of artists in this world.  Most just don’t claim the title of artist, even though what they do creates a variety of emotional responses.  For example, delivery drivers are artists.

Seriously, your average UPS, FedEx, Prime, or USPS driver is really a performance artist.  Think about it.  In fact, I have an example from today. UPS delivered a package to my front door and the resulting performance created an emotional response in me – a work of art.

For the love of all that is holy, please explain to my why, why, doesn’t the UPS driver ring the door bell so I’ll come, open then door and get the package instead of leaving it on the front porch to be stolen by the local porch pirates? I mean, the package was directly under the door bell – two seconds effort. But no! oh no! Just leave it and run. What? Are they afraid I might actually open the door while they’re retreating to their big brown box on wheels? Dude! Please, just ring the damn bell!!!

There, I’ve just proven the UPS driver is a performance artist – by that simple act of not ringing my door bell the driver successfully created an emotional response in me.

You’ve got to admire their skill at it.

Art at its finest.  

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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14 Responses to What is Art?

  1. Dave says:

    Your post made me think of “Blucifer”, the horse sculpture front and center as you approach the main terminal of Denver International Airport. He’s blue from head to toe, standing on his hind legs, and with evil red eyes that light up at night. A survey of Coloradoans rated “strongly dislike” at +90%. When the artist was asked to respond to the survey he simply replied with your definition. The horse is still standing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Debra says:

    I don’t think two people can actually agree on anything these days. I take a broad approach to answering what is art? This is where I pull out the old standard, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. So you must have the same UPS driver that we have – no doorbell ringing for him. But he’s not as bad as the one who leaves the package outside of our garage door, uncovered, in the rain instead of placing it on our covered front porch, just a few mere steps away. Now he makes me MAD.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah – but what comes to my mind:
    If all art evokes emotions, are all emotions truly evoked by art?
    Discuss . . .
    (You don’t have to – just kidding! But can you see my point?)
    Loved the post. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. jfwknifton says:

    I’m glad you brought in the UPS driver. I was just about to comment that “That which creates an emotional response in the viewer.” would include a punch on the nose.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ha! Now I know what it was when our delivery driver pitched our packages over our 8-foot tall fence when he could have easily slid them through the 8″ gap under the gate instead. When we called Amazon to complain, they informed us that the driver said he hadn’t thrown the packages over; he’d placed them on the other side of the fence. Unless the guy was fifteen feet tall with eight foot long arms, well, nope. Don’t think so. Especially since we caught him doing it.

    The next time I spotted the delivery van, I ran for the gate in time to see the driver wind up and hurl another package over the fence, looking me square in the eye while he did it. “Don’t throw our packages over the fence,” I said. “I didn’t,” said he with bare-faced gall. “I placed it.”

    Clearly the guy was an artist. Fortunately, Amazon decided they didn’t need any more of his type of art, and we haven’t seen him since we lodged the second complaint. Sheesh.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Pied Type says:

    Sure as that driver rang the bell, he’d interrupt somebody’s nap or wake somebody’s baby. Poor drivers can’t win. I just appreciate their delivering my stuff. But yes, I think your definition of art is pretty good.

    Liked by 2 people

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