08 June 2007

Thoughts on Aesthetics in the visual arts

Here is our second philosophy paper posting. This one is by "Gem."

A philosopher of the 1900’s, William James, defined philosophy as "an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly." ("The Aesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy," PG 1) After taking this class I have come to whole-heartedly agree.
Of the five major fields in philosophy, I have been particularly interested in Aesthetics. A German philosopher, Alexander Baumgarten, first used the word “aesthetics” in 1744 to mean "the science of the beautiful."(Aesthetics in Discipline, PG 1) This is the branch, which raises questions about art and beauty. As my future occupation I plan on teaching within the (visual) arts. Therefore this topic raised many questions about my art and art itself. Does Baumgarten’s statement then mean that art has to be beautiful? If so, what is “beautiful”? Who gets to decide the definition of ‘beauty’? Does beauty actually exist if it changes from one person to the next?
One of the things that we were asked to do in philosophy class was to define in our own words: art and beauty. The definition for art that I created is: “Art is something that one creates that is either visual or audible; made thoughtfully with some amount of work, skill, and passion.” My conclusion for “beauty” was that it is subjective. Although we cannot all agree upon one definition or example of beauty, we all share a general concept of the term. Therefore, it is more an opinion than actual being.
The definition that I came up with for art seems vague; it leaves room for nearly anything made to be considered “art”. Such as: a microwave. Work, skill, time, motive was obviously involved in the making of it. Does this mean then that the microwave is art? Again, more questions are raised. What sets art apart from any other object? Is art set apart at all? Does art have to meet some higher standard from an ultimate creator? Is man’s definition of art alone a high enough standard? Does there have to be a standard at all? Or is it art just because we (man) proclaim it to be so? Does the motive for which art was made play into whether or not it is art or if it is beautiful?
My personal belief as a Christian is that everything we do, including our art, needs to glorify God. Therefore art has a purpose. If it is not fulfilling its purpose I feel that it is then not art. What is the teleology, or design and purpose, of art? Is its only purpose to glorify God, or does it have other aspects that art should achieve?
I believe that we do not live in a pure world. Rather, we live in a fallen world that has been transformed, and given a human angle. Our world is absorbed with people’s attitudes towards it; our needs, ideas, aims, ideals, joys and sufferings. This world is the vortex of our existence. We fill our world with what we create, which is our art. If we were to remove this human factor (our art) from the world, I feel we would be confronted by a time where everything was unsympathetic to everything else. The whole endless range of our relationships to the world stems from the sum-total of our interactions with it. We interact to the world with our words, pictures and creations, otherwise known as our art. We need and use art to express ourselves, to communicate when there are not words to convey how we feel or what we think needs to be said or remembered.
What happens when we use our art to communicate and describe how we are feeling, but what we describe is not pleasing to the Lord? Can our art ever be good if we are a fallen imperfect people creating it?
Art is what we make to express, communicate, remember, and fill our time with when we need something to do or to feel proud of. What we consider beautiful or worth looking at or listening to is what separates one piece from another.
Michelangelo once said: “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” What I take from this quote is that our art is a gift from God. In order for it to be true we must reflect His perfection and therefore glorify Him through our work. So I challenge you as we compare art now or in the future to ask yourself some of the questions I have discussed. I also challenge you to study your actions and make sure that your actions and art glorify the one that lovingly created you in His Image.

Gem also had arranged a slide show of her own photography to accompany this paper. The images are available below.
photos 1
photos 2
photos 3


Iambic Admonit said...

I wanted to point out that the author of this paper also had a visual component to her presentation. She read the paper aloud, then showed some works of art to illustrate her points. She showed some of her own sketches, one of her oil paintings, and a drawing by her 3-year-old brother. She asked us to discuss whether the 3-yr-old's attempt was "art," and we talked about intentionality in art--which see, under another post of that name.

Rosie Perera said...

Three-year-olds can do some pretty amazing things (see this for example), so I wouldn't put it past them to be able to create art and recognize beauty. See also my earlier post "Teaching Art to Young People, or Learning it From Them?"

Nice photos, Gem. I like your color manipulations and the way you've captured your pensive interactions with Creation. KUTGW.

Anonymous said...
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Gem/darlin said...

One clarification: my brother is four.

I agree that young children are very capable of recognizing beauty or creating art.

Because as we have discussed beauty is subjective and art is what on creates....

But non- the- less young children are very capapble of doing amazing things.

Thank you about the photographs: I have seen your photography blog & I like you work. Do you have any suggestions for me?

And at the risk of sounding ignorant: what does KUTGW mean?

Rosie Perera said...

Gem/Darlin, thanks for your comments on my blog. I'll reply here since I'm guessing you're more likely to check back here.

A couple of suggestions for you: keep exploring what you do best (which seems to be photographing the familiar in nature -- trees and water, etc. -- with interesting lighting and a quality of self-reflectivness). The more you work with what you know, the better you will get at it. But also try to find your weaknesses and work on those. If you are not thoroughly confident in the technical aspects of photography (exposure control, depth-of-field, etc.), I'd encourage you to take a class and practice those things until they become second nature. It will enhance your creative abilities. Other people can teach you about the creative aspects (composition, color, etc.), and it is good to have a basic foundation in those things, but ultimately it will come down to your own personal style, which could stray quite widely from the norm of what is considered beautiful and still make quite a powerful statement. Like poetic license, when you learn the "rules" well, you can break them more effectively. It's hard for me to tell, with such lo-resolution versions of your images, whether you've got the basics down well or not. So I'll refrain from commenting on those things. You seem to be farther along than I am in developing a personal style and having something to communicate with your art, so I congratulate you on that.

I also encourage you to read some of Paul Butzi's writings on art as a verb, as I find that idea very relevant for Christians. One of the reasons we do art is to glorify God and worship him through the very process of doing our art, not just through the final result. Our doing art would bring joy to him even if nobody else ever saw it. A few weeks ago, I was driving south on I-5 through Washington State, and the quality of light hitting the trees on the mountains with their multiple shades of green -- darker in the coniferous parts of the forest and lighter in the deciduous trees -- was nothing short of heavenly. I felt upwelling inside of me an uncontrollable urge to make a picture on the spot. Not a photograph, but a painting. I don't paint, but I wished then and there that I did, and that I had my paints with me. I didn't even have my camera with me. I told a friend about the experience later, and she said "oh yes, it would have been great to capture that scene, but it'll have to remain in your memory." But she didn't get it. It wasn't so I could "capture" the scenery and remember it or show it to others. It was so I could worship God for the glory of his creation, then and there, that I wanted to do the art. I think I'm finally growing into the kind of artist that God wants me to be, when that is my response to the beauty of his creation. I suggest you think about these things when doing your photography, and see if it helps you grow in your relationship with God.

KUTGW means "keep up the good work" (for future reference, you can look up acronyms on Acronym Finder).

Rosie Perera said...

To Gem/Darlin: I don't know your email address, but wanted to point you to the answer I posted to your question on this post on my blog.

Gem/Darlin said...

Dear Rosie,
Thank you for your tips and suggestions. I will try to put them into practice.

I have never taken a photography course before, but I have always loved taking pictures.

For me it has been a way not only to capture things...but sort of point them out.

It has been a blessings for me to use photography to catch details one so regularly misses such as the veins in a leaf... it seems so small an do many things. but it reminds me that God took time to make even the smallest and unsignificant structures.

They all show His glory and each and every thing has a purpose.
I find this encouraging and it gives me hope.

I love to esp. shoot nature sort of things...mostly because it is green. the color green means: "hope". && (it is my favorite color :-) ) But it amazes me and I am so grateful that God cares enough to surround us with things that rremind us that there is always hope. & he is always there.

Art is a gift from God.