Monday, November 21, 2016


What is art? If you check the dictionary (which is an inane way to define something so subjective) you'd find a definition along the lines of "something beautiful or visually appealing" but that definition should frankly just be tossed out immediately. Ignoring the postmodern movement, there are pieces of art, that are universally regarded as art, that are not beautiful. This is maybe an unpopular opinion but let's take La Guernica by Picasso as an example.
 This is an ugly painting, at least it is to me. Picasso never intended for it to be beautiful, it's meant to capture the pain the people of Guernica felt after a series of bombings during World War II. The figures are distorted and the agony is unmistakable, if you were to find beauty in this painting, twisted beauty is about as far as you could go. But it doesn't have to be beautiful because it has meaning. I'm tempted to say that art derives meaning from the viewer, but just because some 12 year old might look at this painting and get nothing out of it, it's not disqualified as art. So then maybe it derives meaning from the artist.

Image result for invisible art warhol

This is "Invisible Sculpture" by Andy Warhol. The piece in question is not the white box, but what's resting on top of it: nothing. I remember getting into an discussion with a friend of mine after stumbling upon an article saying a similar piece, a blank white, floor to ceiling canvas, had been sold for quite a bit of money. The piece was also titled "invisible" and at the time I thought it was completely idiotic somebody would pay good money for a solid white stretched canvas. It was soon pointed out to me that I was maybe thinking about it too simplistically. When my friend saw the painting, or lack thereof, he was reminded of a child's imaginary friend. Invisible to the surrounding world, but the child could see them clearly. Maybe that's all art is. It derives meaning from those who can appreciate it and see its value. Whether or not everybody can see its value is irrelevant.
I in no way pretend to be an authority on what is or is not art but this definition works for me. I'll admit, it feels like a pretentious answer, but honestly isn't "what is art?" kind of a pretentious question?


  1. Thinking about whether the meaning of art comes from the consumer or the artist itself is interesting. The first thought that came to my mind was, "isn't art made to be consumed, so wouldn't how it is consumed be a large part of it's meaning" but I feel like arts meaning goes far beyond it's audience and that being consumed is a small part of its purpose. The meaning that an artist puts into their work and wants their work to represent is a very big part of arts purpose and what makes it good. The artist/art/consumer relationship is really interesting to think aobut.

  2. I like how you say that the meaning of art comes from the person who is looking at it, that makes sense to me. Art is only beautiful if you make it beautiful, or ugly if you make it ugly. I like the post.