I have an ambiguous relationship with art. What's your definition of art? Please share in the comments.

Help Wanted: What’s Your Definition of Art?

by Esther on 11 september 2011

I have an ambiguous relationship with art. I’m drawn towards it and put off by it at the same time.

After having had many thoughts on art run through my mind, I decided that I need your help with this.

Yes, that’s you there, glancing over this page, drawn between the curiosity to read what’s coming next and the desire to quickly click away.

I see you.

And I invite you to interact with me on the subject of art.

But first, let me explain what’s lead me to think of art as partly off-putting.

It’s not because of the artwork itself. What puts me off is how people appreciate and approach art.

Art Is for Snobs

I can see how remarkable the works of Mozart, Van Gogh and Shakespeare are, considering the time they lived in and the complex techniques they were able to use to create something entirely new.

But Art with a capital A, or Culture with a capital C, has a distinctive snobbish feel to it. When I think of Mozart, Van Gogh and Shakespeare, I think of their worst audience.

  • People who despise pop music and only appreciate classical instrumental pieces.
  • People who collect paintings to raise their social and financial status.
  • People who turn reading into an intellectual experience instead of an inviting way to relax.

Blah, blah, blah.

I can’t stand them.

I can smell the hollowness of their elitist artistic experiences from miles away.

Art Is for Stuck-Ups

Let’s look at someone like Salvador Dalí. Now here’s an artist whose work I can appreciate mostly. It’s modern, magical and just… different.

But the lovers of modern art also seem to think that sticking a toilet pot to the wall or turning a car upside down is by definition an act of creativity and a work of art.

I think that’s stuck-up and it gives me doubts towards what art really is.

What Is Art, Anyway?

The definition of art has broadened to include photography, video art, installations, fashion design, graffiti and so much more.

But not every photo, nursery rhyme or cute dress qualifies as a piece of art. Or does it?

Art is devaluated by those who call anything art. Or could you consider everything art?

What if I took my desk, painted it red and placed it in the middle of our town square, with a small note attached naming it “An expression of the soul” and signed it in small print in the corner?

Would you suddenly consider me an artist?

Art Is for… Me?

Lately, the words art and artist have resonated a lot more with me than they did before. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that maybe I am a creative person after all.

I’m even starting to think (ssshh!) that I might actually be an artist.

But my vision of art is skewed and unclear. The fog will need to be lifted if I want to embrace this new identity: the identity of an artist.

This is where you come in.

My Question to You

Here’s the question I need your help with:

What is art to you?

And here are some opinions to get you (and me) started:

  • Art is creating something to affect other people’s senses, emotions or intellect (according to Wikipedia)
  • Art is living a life in which you do the things you love (according to Leo Babauta of ZenHabits)
  • Your whole life is a canvas, a work of art in itself (according to Mandy Steward of Messy Canvas)

How broad or narrow is the definition that resonates most with you? Is everything you create a work of art? Why, or why not? How do you feel about art?

Please share your personal definition of art in the comments below and help me redefine and shape the meaning of art in my life.