RE: ART: What Art Is

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Tue May 30 2000 - 17:18:56 MDT

Dear Extropes,

I wonder why folks (not only here) pay so much attention to defining
and critiquing art?

My (admittedly uneducated-in-formal-art-matters) perspective about
art is that:

* someone's art has value if they succeed in creating a concrete
manifestation of something that "moves" them

* that person's art has an even higher value if that other person's
art succeeds in moving _me_

I know that it's a perspective with fuzzy boundaries, with alot of
room for discussion of how someone can create crappy art, and how
that "crappy" art can move someone.

However, someone's "crappy" art (which simply means that I don't like
it) has an easy solution for me: I am free to walk away from it, or
walk out of the theatre, or out of the concert hall, or turn off the
TV, or put the book away, etc.

[I'm using "art" to connote the range of human expression such as
painting, writing, music, dance, photography, film, etc.]

The subject of this thread says it all (in my view). Art simply
_is_. It's that means of expression that takes me out of my head,
where I usually spend many hours of every day, and it puts me in my
body in the present. It's a way that I can let my child-self loose
and let my imagination run away with itself and be myself. And art
is a very important and necessary balancing force to my life. So
then, "Art is."

Until I become more skilled at certain aspects of my "arts", I
refrain from analyzing in a rational way, arts by others, and
instead I pay attention to that art's effect on my senses.
(Actually, I don't think I would enjoy analyzing art anyway).

From: Sun, 28 May 2000

>IMHO Vangough couldn't paint for toffee, his pictures belong in a
>school corridor somewhere with a label saying "1st year art class"

Van Gogh's skill level doesn't bother me at all. His paintings
certainly do have a child-like aspect to them... and well, I'm a
child ! I like that aspect to his works.

Here's my story about Van Gogh.

One month ago for business and for holiday, I discovered that I was
travelling through a region in France where Van Gogh spent the last
year of his life.

Since I have admired, for a couple of decades, a painting of Van
Gogh's called "Starry Night", and this painting like no other
captures the passionate essence of the astronomy profession (IMHO),
I decided to learn more about the man (Van Gogh) who made that

For 5 days, by coincidence and then on purpose, I followed some of
Van Gogh's footsteps in Provence. I stood at the places where he
stood when he painted many scenes. I smelled the air, I saw the
light and the colors, I felt the Sun's warmth, I heard the sounds,
and I believe that I understood some of his motivations to paint his
pictures in the way that he did.

The Sun kisses the land in a really sweet way. The limestone rock on
the local Alpilles mountains is so white that it blinds your eyes.
The blue sky is _really blue_, and the white swirley clouds contrast
sharply against the sky. The olive trees are wonderfully crooked,
giving an appearance of ancient sages that observe everything and
saying nothing. The fragrance of lilacs permeated everything. The
greens and lavenders and oranges and reds of the herbs and wild flowers
are chaotic and wild and alive. And the overall golden veil of yellow
on the landscape would make you feel warm, even if it was freezing
cold outside.

Probably if I was a "first year art student" and someone put a
paintbrush in my hand, I would paint the scenes that Van Gogh saw,
in a way that he did. But he would still paint better paintings because
his wild mind was a lot more wild than mine!

I am very glad that Van Gogh managed to capture on canvas what I
experienced when I was there.


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into
you." - -Nietzsche

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