When I was in college (community college, mind you) while looking at some godawful excuse for an artistic piece, I asked my art teacher what constituted art. He said, 'Well, there are standards for judging art, so why do you presume to judge the art when you don't know the standards?" What a freakin' IDIOT! I wasn't "presuming" to judge ANYTHING! I was asking what the standards WERE--which he never told me, probably as he wasn't smart enough to explain it. Another time I asked about a certain work of Modern Art, "The Large Glass." He went on and on about the theme till I finally got through to him that all I wanted to know was what it is made of--is it glass, or something else? GEEZ! A classmate and I agreed that he was a perfect example of the adage, "Those who can, do, those who can't, teach, and those who can't even teach become high school principals."
I never got my question answered, and now it torments me day and night! The other day PBS ran a special on the Broadway musical which showed the guy who played Georges Seurat in "Sunday in the Park with George" (who was brilliant, by the way, singing a mile a minute while painting almost as fast) singing, "Art Isn't Easy."
So...presumably TRUE artists KNOW they're creating art, they know HOW to do this, and have means by which to judge their achievements. (I stress "true" artists to eliminate all those who think they are great and aren't, and all those who truly are great and don't recognize it themselves!) I STILL DON'T KNOW--
What makes one book literature and another just a story book?
(The only standard I know is age--if it's still known/being read 50 years or more after its first publication--it's literature. So, I've been reading some very OLD books--but I still often don't know what makes them better than another book of the same kind--or whether some authors were simply celebrated for being the first to do a certain thing, and doing parts of it well.)
But, many people are celebrated in their lifetime and then tossed aside on the scrap heap of history as fads, while others, virtually unknown in life, are only discovered and celebrated after their death--in some cases, I suppose, because they were so far ahead of their own time or not bound by their own time. But that still leaves the burning question: what IS Literature? I asked this in college (state university, mind you) and never got much of an answer. Now it's buggin' the heck out of me, so I'm going to give you highly astute and opinionated readers a shot at it.
Literature is truth or beauty or both, done with a degree of deftness.
Hmmm . . . sounds like the words of a sherry-sipping poseur . . . but I'll let it stand.
[This message has been edited by h.rousseau (edited 10-24-2004).]
Is a man's name. -Andy Warhol
Fascinating question. The nature of the answer (and I don't presume to have it) depends, in part, on where you want to go with it.
The branch of aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with definitions and evaluations (and theories of the evaluation) of art.
I know one of the first criteria of art is that it is man-made. Something can be beautiful in nature (a sunset or waterfall or shoreline) but it is not art.
There are several broad theories of the criticism/evaluation of art. One relies solely on the subjective experience of art. Art conveys beauty and/or truth because it is a manmade object that conveys that beauty or truth to a person with whom that piece of art subjectively resonates. In a sense, the judgment of the art is not made solely on the art itself, as an object; but on the relationship established between the art object (painting, sculpure, literature, architechure, etc.) and the person viewing/participating in the art. In this sense, age or cultural acclaim have nothing to do with the evaluation of the status of a creation as "art" or "not-art".
In some systems of evaluation, the object itself is "evaluated" as to whether or not it is "art" on the basis of whether or not that object meets a standard and objective criteria of what some authorities have defined as "art". In this case, it is possible that some have defined (what you or I may call crap) as art solely on the basis of whether or that their checklist of what "art" is is met.
Anyway, it is a big question, and I think an important one.
I'm currently reading through Aggelis's "Conversations with Ray". If I see anything Ray says about this, I'll try to remember to include it here.
If your interested in the subject at a philosophical level, your library should have a copy of "The Enclyclopedia of Philosophy" which would have an introductory essay under the title of Aesthetics (or something close to that).
There are lots of essays and books on aesthetics. As I say, it depends on where you want to go with it. At what level of abstraction are you wanting to go?
I'll defer to Mr. Dark for the deeper discussions of Art but I think it's funny that Grasstains and I are heading more in the same direction. While in college, I had a class on Contemporary American poetry and the instructor put it to us: what's the difference between him cleaning under his kitchen sink and ending up with a pile of Brillo pads and Andy Warhol making his own pile of Brillo pads and calling it art? Well, it's Andy Warhol calling his pile of Brillo pads art. I hate to go with this "easy" definition but I think it's true: art is whatever you want to call art. The trick is whether others are convinced that your work of art is, indeed, art.
All that aside, I really don't think it's important, Dandelion. There will always be differences of opinion. What was considered important literature a little over 20 years ago when I was in college bears little resemblance to the books I've recently browsed in the college bookstore. (No Bradbury in the Science Fiction classes! No Bradbury at all! And no Hemingway!) I think it's better to follow Bradbury's example when he tells of collecting his Flash Gordon comics: They were important to him, by gosh, and the rest of the world could go to heck if they didn't see things his way.
Ooooh! Nice question.
Bradbury says he fell in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins, the priest-poet...because he sounded 'SOOOO' good!! Well, what does THAT mean?
I do believe it has much to do with the character of a person. Character: the fundamental make -up of the way we think and respond to others in a humane fashion; of being a humane person, of being human, in that we treat others well, think intelligently with respect to the rights and wrongs, good and evils of this world, knows one's limitations, and desires the better. Now, a corrupt underpinnings of any person can invade and dislodge all this good stuff, and make one a wretch. So, to make a long story short...it's when you are more of what you should be in the good sense, can you examine and come to certain conclusions about art, any art, if it be 'good' or 'bad art'. I do believe bad people can find thmselves admiring good art, but it ain't the bad in them that finds the good in art.
Actually, this is a wonderful question that needs a lot of room to explore and discuss.
A young monk was learning iconography from an older monk who was a master iconographer. After much study and work, he presented his teacher with his first icon.
"Master, I have studied Dionysius of Fourna, ground the pigments, selected and carved the wood - all in the traditional manner. I have fasted and prayed and otherwise followed your instructions; and now, Master, with your blessing, here is my first icon. Please tell me what you think of my work."
"You have done well, my son. But one thing you still lack."
"What is that, father?"
"Talent, my son, talent."
I've always held the opinion that, if I can do it, it's not art! Such as Mondrian, who I do believe paints boxes and lines and calls it art (I could have the wrong artist, as my interests lie a few centuries back!) - I can do that! Picasso's another one; looks like a little kid painted it. I know he's a great artist, but it's not art to me! Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt....now THAT'S art!
I think that art/literature, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago a few years back and I saw an exhibit that included a straight-backed wooden chair in the corner of a "room" in the midst of a pile of hard candy. This was supposed to represent the loss the artist felt after his partner (who weighed the same as the amount of candy) died of AIDS. Now, I can appreciate the loss the artist felt, etc, but I don't think that museum was the appropriate venue for his expression. Obviously someone else did. On that same trip, I saw a string of lightbulbs on a nail in the wall. This was another "work of art" but not to me. I couldn't wait to get out of there and find some Van Gogh to look at.
Another example is literature. Two of the courses I am currently taking perfectly exemplify the subjective nature of literature.
Today I will attend English Romantic Fiction. We study works by Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Sir Walter Scott, and others. All these books are clearly identified in the canon as "Literature".
Tomorrow is American Noir. This class evaluates the crime fiction of such writers as Raymond Chander, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, etc. This work was and is popularly considered "pulp" but here I am studying it in an upper-level college English class.
I would like to think that most things have some inherent artistic value. For me the challenge is digging it out. Sometimes, however, like with that stuff in Chicago, I just don't get it.
If one feels a necessity to admit to being an artist, does that then negate the zen or art of being one? As Pete says, does it really matter what others say. There are always enough critics to go around!
I immediately thought of Henri Cartier-Bresson's constant refusals to be called the greatest photographer, a genius, or artist without peer! He was too consumed by the moment to look back or seek that which approached. I guess a picture is the perfect example of the "now" and what perfection is - if there really is such a thing. An expression of art is caught by the senses only in one slice of time, conveyed to others and then either understood or misunderstood. Simple. http://www.peterfetterman.com/artists/cb/cb_sm.html
Otherwise, that moment or image is gone and maybe lost forever. Who knows?
RE: Robert Frost's - Nothing Gold Can Stay!
In the literary realms (so many), I think of Sylvia Plath, who seemed to "have it" yet was consumed by a need to "control it" and was thus "consumed by it." Tragic, she was a magnificent young writer. (Other demons at work here.)
RB states it many times, he lets the moments control him. His 60+ yrs. of doing it literally speak volumes on the topic. Simple, again! Hardly...
[This message has been edited by fjpalumbo (edited 10-25-2004).]
First of all, I prefer to say "THOSE WHO CAN, TEACH. It is not as easy as some would think. Imagine trying to define art or literature for a class full of kids who are not as intelligent as you guys are and who definately don't care what it is.
Literature is deemed to be literature by those who study it--literary scholars and professors. Literature belongs to what we call "The Canon" which are the accepted pieces. It does change from time to time, but for the most part it is defined as works that survive through time. It is not a great definition, but it is the one everyone goes by.
I think it is like the question of what is pornographic or profane versus what is art. I cannot define the profane, but I know it when I see it. South Park does not belong next to Shakespeare, and to most that is evident. However there will always be debate.
Literature and art, like beauty, lies within the eye of the beholder.
I'll see if I can find the exact source and quote - it was something Joseph Campbell discussed once. He made comments along the line that according to the Greek philosophers, if your emotions were drawn to the subject itself, if it made you want to possess or experience the subject, then it was not art, it was advertising (and even cheap manipulation). If it brought a visceral response of repulsion from you, it was not art, it was sensationalism (and even cheap manipulation).(Think crucifixes in urine...) If your emotions were elevated beyond the mundane subject matter into contemplation of the meaning of the experience, and from there to contemplation of life itself, and drew you closer to the gods, THEN it was art. Glee
I do believe Ray Bradbury tends to the latter part of your description, in part
"..... to contemplation of life itself......"
But I profoundly find it mysterious, that an intelligent, adult, mature individual, after all of life's trials and tribulations, who exerts this grand talent with all its ramifications, still attributes his gift to 'mortal life'. Oh, tho Ray says that..." God thumbprints thee, be not another...." there is almost this sense of conflict of reasoning.
That line from the movie, ''Chariots of Fire''... which says, "...you can't put in what God's left out," applies to art. THAT thing we call art is what God's left in.
Art suffers no definition...
Friend sent this to me. Since we are talking about art... it sure has a way of affecting us in so many ways. Like Bradbury's art.
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