Thursday, February 08, 2007

Art Appreciation


It seems to me that a very large slice of our motivation for artistic endeavors is subjective. What is aesthetically pleasing to one is not necessarily appreciated by all. Even more, the impressions we experience are individualistic and subjective. Thus we may not see or hear the same things as other partakers of the same artistic offering. When we attempt to create a work of art, we endow our creation with something personal. But others are quite likely to perceive something entirely different, relative to their own frame of reference.

Sometimes this leads to confusion. Because our society is so strongly directed toward the authoritative, we often tend to sell out our own creative birthright to so-called experts -- critics and the critically acclaimed, people with "high" academic qualifications, those who have successfully marketed their work, the wealthy and powerful. But, at least from the most important individual perspective, the personal experience of such people is no more or less valid than our own. In fact, in the subjective sense, no other perspective supercedes our own.

It is ironic, too, that our experience of the arts can be so colored by input coming from outside the specific channel or medium of the work of art. A negative word from the critics can cast a pall on our enjoyment of the film. Good reviews motivate us more strongly to go see it for ourselves.

Perhaps we should strive more to insulate ourselves from input that tends to inform preconceived notions about the quality of a work of art.

What would you think, if you saw the "Mona Lisa" for the first time, but had never heard anything about it? Would you judge it to be a masterpiece?

Not so subjective...

On the other side of the page, it is obvious that there are elements of artistic endeavor that are decidedly less subjective.

Aspiring artists have experimented for thousands of years with all forms of expression, a myriad of media, a sea of genres. For reasons not so plain, some art forms have more universal appeal, and some are perhaps only attractive -- or even comprehensible -- to the artist who created the work.

In this regard, the experienced artist has a decided edge. Not even native talent or natural genius seem more important in rendering a successful artistic creation that evokes a significant response in a significant number of people.

Although in some instances that academic training can be somewhat helpful in this regard, it appears to me that the best art is generally produced by someone who has tried and practiced and worked long and hard to create evocative and aesthetically stimulating products. Training with a "master" or "mentor" ostensibly helps the artist to learn specific technical skills.

Coloring inside the lines...

While it seems trendy to assert our individuality, in art there seems to be a lot of value in learning discipline. This is particularly important within a specific genre or medium, where technical proficiency precedes effective expression.

The discipline within a specific form of art helps to ensure that other people will be able to understand and share the expression the artist is attempting. Without establishing a common frame of experience, the artist cannot rightly expect his work to be appreciated.

Thus we have rules for paintings, poetry, stories, sculptures. Sometimes departing from the rules has a point. But usually, coloring inside the lines helps us create something others can relate to.

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