In American Muse, Chapter 1, Anderson puts forth the notion that “there is an enormous amount of art in America today — far more than is generally recognized by most people, scholar and nonspecialist alike.” He goes on to define art as “being made by humans whose elevated intellectual, creative, or bodily skills are recognized by others in their group; of being imaginatively created in an immediately, and directly sensuous, public medium.” If one applies Anderson’s definition of art to the music, paintings, sculptures, and other works that have been created in modern times by Americans, one can say that Anderson’s argument that art is alive and well in America is quite valid. However, do you believe that Anderson’s definition of art is flawed, and if so, how would you define art?
Anderson focuses on the descriptive rather than the evaluative usage of the word art throughout American Muse. However, most people who look at art make statements such as, “Oh, that’s a beautiful painting” or “That doesn’t look lifelike enough.” Is it wrong to make such evaluative statements about art? Is there such thing as “good art” or “bad art?”
Dewey asserts that “art is a mode of prediction not found in charts and statistics, and it insinuates possibilities of human relations not to be found in rule and precept, admonition and administration.” However, Anderson appears to downplay this by assuming that “art and aesthetics in America have an objective reality, one that can be empirically studied.” Can one’s reaction to art be studied quantitatively, or is art something that cannot be explained in numbers?