Monday, August 10, 2015

What I Know and Don't Know About Art

Because I’ve grown up in an artistic family, I feel like I have had more positive experiences with art than usual. For as long as I can remember, I’ve not only been surrounded by books about and prints of fine art, but been encouraged to create my own art as well. As far as visual art goes, I mostly have experience drawing in pencil and marker.

Creating art has always been my primary mode of self-expression in my everyday life, even if most of my art is kept to myself. I think art can be used to show an audience otherwise inexpressible things about oneself, and also about what the artist believes about the world and what lies beyond it. While art can be meaningful when kept between the artist and God, the primary direction of art should from the artist to humanity.

I think there is an inherent mystique about art that makes it hard to ever know everything about it, whether in general as a concept, or in reference to any specific work. This tension can be frustrating, but also very liberating. It opens up a new way of looking at things for both artists and those who merely observe.


Because of the mysterious nature of art, and the fact that it is a term spread across such a disparate group of mediums, it is hard to come up with a satisfying definition of art. Anything you try to come up with seems to exclude one thing or another that could be considered art.

The best definition I can think of is “a work of human production that in some way can bring us closer to Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.” Now a huge amount of things can fall into this category. Not all of them might be considered ‘good art.’ One thing I don’t know about art is any particular way of deciding whether it is good, or whether such a thing even can be done. Perhaps if it falls under my definition at all, it automatically has some worth. But surely some art is better than others?

The theme of paradox that is prevalent in this course seems to fit well with my experience with art. I know that art is often found in unexpected and unexplainable places, and can change your life in seemingly impossible ways. There is something beautiful about the fact that a thing that may seem so small and unimportant (as many people may see art, especially amateur art) can be the seed of the greatest existential conversions.

Art is often described as something which is used to produce an emotion, whether positive or negative. While this is indeed a function of art, it is important to allow the artwork to carry that emotion to its natural conclusion, which should be some sort of greater realization of the previously mentioned Transcendentals. Finding out exactly how this next step, the resolution to an experience, will play out is one of the most exciting parts of art for me.


This paper was written for my Visual Art and the Catholic Imagination college course. All necessary editing and formatting liberties were taken to present this text.