Tag Archives: art

What Is Art?

It’s a question that gets asked a lot and has a lot of answers. In 1897 Leo Tolstoy wrote a lengthy article titled simply What Is Art? I wonder how he might have expounded on it differently if he had lived to see works by Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, or Ray Johnson.

As someone who is sometimes described as an artist, here are my thoughts on the matter: Art is a big umbrella word that encompasses the choices we make beyond the scope of necessity. Paintings can be art. Music can be art. Cooking can be art. Landscaping can be art. Fashion can be art.

It is not surprising to me when folks without much art education look at pieces of modern (or post-modern or contemporary) art and exclaim, “That’s not art!” It is surprising to me when those I would consider to be artists claim the same thing. My contention is that if someone creates something and decides to call it art, it is art. It is subjective to the point that observers can decide for themselves how good the art is and how they feel about it, but not if it is art.

A mechanic changing your oil at Jiffy Lube is probably not creating art, but when that mechanic goes home and changes out the standard bolts on his car for the chrome plated variety he is making art. Maybe he doesn’t consider it art. Maybe he just thinks it looks cool. It’s in that sense that we’re all artists to some degree. That could be why I don’t tell people I’m an artist. Yes, I’m an artist. Who isn’t?

Undoubtedly I’ll share more thoughts on this in the future, but for now I’d love to hear your thoughts on it too.