Art: What is it?
Over the years I have struggled with what art actually is. Is it something beautiful? Is it everything we make or do? According to Miriam Webster it’s a few things:
- a skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
- a branch of learning
- an occupation requiring knowledge or skill
- the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects
- decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter
Up until college I had always taken a conservative approach to art. If it was well-painted, beautiful and had a clear message, then I considered it art. And that does still hold some truth to it, but when I went to college, I had a professor who totally changed how I looked at art–and everything else around me. I remember a discussion I had with him on this topic: I was arguing that just because someone says something is “art” doesn’t mean it is because art is supposed to be beautiful. Art is supposed to be a display of skill and hard work; it’s supposed to tell a story. He countered by tossing the contents of a trashcan onto the floor and declaring it beautiful, so to him, it was art. I was appalled until my professor proceeded to explain the story this trash had to tell–a dirty paper towel cleaned the brush of an artist who was working on their masterpiece; the artist was hard at work and couldn’t break away so they ate the chips and drank the water for sustenance; the crunched up piece of paper was a rejection email they tossed because they knew that one day they would silence their critics by working hard and getting better at their craft.