What is Art?

Somebody once told me that anyone with a pen can be a writer, because writing is just a window to our interior dialogue. A means to convey what runs through our minds. I understand the sentiment behind this statement, and it’s definitely a popular theory. There’s the whole, “I have a camera, therefore I am a photographer,” thing. Or, “I have a paint brush, therefore I am a painter.” All statements grounded in logic, but that’s all they are. Cold, logical statements that associate value based on appearance.

Like I said before, I understand these statements. I can see where they’re coming from. Art forms are an expressive medium. It’s a way to give the world a glimpse into our own perspective. Visual art, music, writing; they exist solely because we’re looking for a better way to communicate with each other. We want you to see what we see, hear what we hear, think what we think. It’s all about relating to one another.

I guess it makes sense because every art form I can think of requires you to use one of your five senses. Generally, the same sense that the artist used. Painters paint their work so you can see it, and they see it as they’re doing it. Musicians hear their own music and hope that you hear it the way they do. Chefs are hoping that their food tastes as good to you as it tastes to them.

Art fulfills a very primal need. The need to see, touch, smell, hear, and taste. So, naturally whatever invokes these senses is art, right? So, by that manner of thinking everything is art? I don’t necessarily think that’s a terrible theory, as many things in this world are somebody’s art piece in some way, shape, or form; but I don’t subscribe to the idea that everyone with a paintbrush, pen, or guitar is an artist. I simply can’t believe that the sole act of doing is what makes art.

I could sit here and write exactly what was going through my head at any given moment, and I doubt a single person would look at those words and think, “oh, what a great story!” because it wouldn’t be a story. It would be some words printed on a page without any context or emotion. It’s like tourist photography. It’s not art, it’s documentation.

What differentiates art from documentation is the story. What brought the work about, how is this tied back to the emotion of the portrayer, and how does it make me feel? This model can be applied to absolutely everything, not just the things we consider art. Every work of art requires a piece of us. Our personality, our perspective, our values. Without that piece, it’s just another consumer product. 

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