Specialization of What Art Means to People

Richard L. Anderson paints a very rich, thorough, and descriptive picture of the word art in the perspectives of three ancient civilizations, a few 20th century philosophers and the general public throughout the centuries. There is a sense that art means differently in terms of culture to the ancient peoples of the Australian aboriginal, the Navajos, and the Yorubas in contrast with the more contemporary general public. Of course, the views of the ancient people on art, from what I gathered in “American Muse”, are drawn from their day-to-day life experience as well as their surrounding environment while the public’s or our opinion on art is guided by the thoughts of the philosophers. It is interesting to see the Navajos perceiving art as pervading every insignificant details of their lives demonstrated by the Navajo prayer that Anderson referenced to in the text. The Yoruba connects art with their culture “in sustaining fundamental beliefs and values” and of which the concept of harmony is included in daily living. The Australian Aboriginal simply uses art as a means of education, of growing up, and possibly religion (from the mentioning of rituals). Their views of art are in many ways simple and practical when compared to how we see art. Anderson refers to the centuries in which mankind has changed his view of art from art being “the exceptional skills associated with painting, drawing, engraving, and sculpture” in the 17th century through the 19th century to a whole abstract array of art in the 20th century and on.

1) Why is our perception of art always changing and complex in contrast to the understandable meaning art held for people of the ancient civilizations?

Anderson refers to the strategy of philosopher Morris Weitz in defining art in the majority of Chapter 1’s content. According to Weitz, a gray area exists, between what he deems as art and nonart, “to the degree that they possess the recognition criteria that characterizes artworks”, 2) how much do you agree with this statement? Similarly, most of us were left in a debate on Tuesday over whether a sketch of a person by a local Indian artist (who is conspicuously doing sketches for a living) should be deemed as art. Some of us feel that art is black and white, others maybe not. What are your thoughts?

In Chapter 2, Anderson takes us into the homes of three friends in a five minute video interview regarding the role art plays in their lives. Anderson’s wife, Kim, owns a home adorned by plentiful traces of art in a whole range of varieties. From the house’s exterior architecture, to its interior design, to paintings, furnitures, Kim’s attire, and etc, art can be clearly detected implicitly in Kim’s knowledge. Carmen, an elderly Mexican woman, doesn’t see art in her home in contrast to Kim. However Anderson convincingly defends this by remarking hints of art in the interior architectural features, to the furnitures, to the ceramic plaques, and more, all of which Carmen feels is not art to her as her definition of art is restricted to fine arts. Lastly, we are brought to Dick, the passionate auto-repair man, who conveys art in a down-to-earth manner through the sense of a car aficionado. Art is captured simply in his work environment, in the clothing, in the Volvo logo, graphic designs on his business cards, and more. Through Anderson’s eyes, we come to see how these three individuals understand and convey art. 3)With whom do you identify yourself in the notion as to which particular person’s perception of art does your definition of art fits closely in?

In many ways, art can vary between groups of people due to their occupation, philosophy, and ultimately, culture. Anderson’s project interview supports this namely in his interviewees’ designs and physical portrayals of their homes.

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One Response to Specialization of What Art Means to People

  1. Evgenia Gorovaya says:

    1) What with the advent of technology, the world seems to be moving much faster than ever before. New ideas and beliefs spread like wildfire; there is hardly such a thing as a stable status quo nowadays. In ancient times, there was no way of spreading change; therefore, progress was very slow. People had to stick to the basics because that was all that they knew. Today it is much easier to “think outside of the box,” if you’ll excuse the cliché.
    2) I disagree that there is a grey area between art and non-art. If there is feeling involved in the piece, then it is considered art, and vice versa. As for the sketches by the local Indian artist, the same rule would apply. If he was simply making sketches for the money, then there is no art involved. He is simply exchanging his services for money like any other skilled worker.
    3) I can identify most with Dick Jobe. His art may not be considered the most sophisticated, but it embodies a personality of familiarity and homeyness. The Volvo-esque logo, the coffee-related decorations, the business licenses, and the Automotive Service Association patches are all distinct expressions of self. I am in no way skilled to produce something of my own in visual art, but decorating is just as potent in expressing who I am.

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