What makes art GOOD? Could it be the medium? Is it the style? Is it the ubiquitous (or at least general) agreement that something is tasteful or artsy?
Here is a secret: that was a trick question. It is entirely subjective. What you find to be good and what I find to be good can be completely different (much like football, but not). The things that we look for in art may be as different as night and day, and no one person is right. With that said, I believe that a common core can be found, and an agreement reached if we are properly objective. Whether the medium is paint, sculpture, or even music, we tend to adore that which we can feel and relate to the artist’s passion. Many people reject the art of Hans Hoffman (a modern abstract) as being stupid and ridiculous, but many others feel and relate to the feeling and creativity put into his paintings.
What we like and what we feel is entirely up to us, and from time to time, we run into a piece that is so profound as to mesmerize our minds, strum our emotions, and flood us with questions of paramount philosophical importance (or not). The good thing is, as JCC students, we need not travel far to find a diverse array of art. You see, our entire campus is a gallery; an art gallery without walls, with no boundaries. It starts with The Weeks Gallery, of course, but all around campus we can see examples of human brilliance and creativity. Some are works from established artists and faculty members, while others are pieces created by JCC students. They’re all incredible, though, and they surround us everyday to the point where we may not even notice they’re there. I think it is appropriate that a means of expression such as art (again, in every medium) has such freedom.
Whether you realize it or not, you love art. Perhaps you are not the type to cultivate a seditious taste in cheese and beverages whilst criticizing the brushstrokes of Diego Velazquez, but that doesn’t mean that you are apathetic towards the arts. For example, I guarantee that 99% of the people who read this will recognize this painting:
Probably the most globally recognized piece of art, the Mona Lisa has stared down many a generation. Now let me ask: What mood is she in? Is she happy? Smug? Amused? If you can contemplate that question, you have already internalized an appreciation for the work. I would suggest that most of our appreciation of the various forms of art comes in the form of a question.
Let’s take a look at something a little more domestic:
Hopefully, you recognize this guy from right here on the Jamestown Campus (Shout out to all of you lovely people from North County, Warren, and Olean). Many moons ago when I was but a first-semester freshman, someone told me the name of this particular piece, which I promptly forgot. I affectionately refer to it as Tin Man. While sitting on the grass one day, a friend of mine asked what I thought he was doing. Personally, my answer was “reaching.” What for, you may ask? Therein lies the beauty of art. It is never intended for the artist, but instead, for each one of us.
As my tenure at JCC has progressed, Tin Man has come to symbolize all of the things that I happen to be reaching for at the moment. That could be getting an A on that test, or getting into the four year that I just applied to. The versatility of art is what has fascinated so many for so long. Often times, the shape, the color, and even the medium of art is secondary to the passion of the artist.
I often refer to music to illustrate this. As you might expect of someone who blogs about art, I am a lifelong fan of classical music and opera. Currently a very famous pianist in the classical scene is 31 year old Lang Lang. His form and technique are absolutely flawless, and the world community has recognized his talent. But if you were to listen to him play Liebestraum (The Three Nocturnes), and compare his performance to my favorite pianist (A Russian prodigy by the name of Evgeny Kissin), you would realize one distinct difference: Lang’s playing is flawless, of that there is no doubt. BUT, his posture, facial expressions, and demeanor when playing is purely technical. He depresses the correct keys at the correct time. NO more and no less. Kissin, in contrast, is entirely absorbed by the piano. He is invested in the song and noticeably consumed by the rise and fall of the music. He does not play, but rather, he feels. Before you discount that as typical art-lover bull, I encourage you to check both of the artists out and draw your own conclusion.
Ultimately, my point is that we are surrounded by art that is begging to be appreciated. Perhaps I do not grow excited over everything (personally, Hans Hoffman does absolutely nothing for me), but if we take some time to explore, I have found that we are often surprised by what we discover. Take a few minutes out of your day to seek out art, maybe even some of the fantastic exhibits on campus. Think about it, and most importantly, challenge your mind to think and question.