I have gone against centuries of purposeful ambiguity and come up with a definition of what I think art is. To me, art is that which evokes emotion. It’s a pretty broad definition, not limited to type or intensity of emotion, and not requiring intentional creation. There is art in nature, art in furniture, and in someone’s smile, and of course theres art in all the usual places you’d expect.
I’d go so far as to say there is art in everything, even if it doesn’t evoke emotion in you. When I was young I’d listen to classical music and didn’t enjoy it, because I didn’t feel the emotion until I got older. Even now I eat food without appreciating it, even though I know that if I focused, I’d get a deep sense of (hopefully) enjoyment, but perhaps some other emotion. So it seems that to enjoy art requires a certain level of skill, which can be learned.
But why enjoy art? “Why enjoy anything at all?”, I suppose. To me, a life with variety is a life best lived, and the variety of experience that is easily accessible through art is exceptional. Classic art forms (poetry, painting, music, stories, etc) are so easily accessible now. If you learn to let yourself go, and train yourself to actually feel the emotion intended by the artist, you can experience an enormous array of experiences without ever leaving home! I particularly enjoy music because it is so easy to access, and its easier for me to feel than other art forms. However, I don’t think any art form should be shunned, nor any art. Some is difficult to deal with, and causes emotions I don’t enjoy, however, I think having the strength of mind to deal with these things makes me a better person.
Theres a lot to think about on this subject. What makes a good artist? It seems to me a good artist is capable of evoking emotion in people, and an artist who is respected does it in unique ways. Why do some people enjoy art that others do not? I think we have a tendency to stick to the art we know. Unfortunately this is why pop music sticks around: its shoved down people’s ears when they are kids, and it becomes what they are used to. So people end up with whats easy, sticking to pop music, and missing out on music that is even remotely unique. Why does some art last? I think art ends up being passed on to new generations because it makes people feel a positive emotion, a very intense emotion, or a very unique emotion. It makes sense, why would someone tell you about something that was unremarkable?
Art is an amazing thing that opens experiential possibilities to those who could never have accessed such emotions. Positive emotions, I have a hunch, replenish our ability to deal with negative, or draining emotions. For a productive life, its so important to be able to experience these things to offset stress which impedes productivity.
Lastly, I like to think about the art that I am to other people. What impact do I have on them and what do I make them feel? When I read biographies of famous people, I can’t help but get caught up in the story of who they were. I wonder what sort of story I’ll leave people to read about.
(Upon writing this post, I realized that some things make you feel emotion which I wouldn’t consider art. These are things that rely less on the senses and more on chemistry to change an emotional state. Some examples might be exercise, or drugs.)