What is Art?

"Sunrise" (Drawing) Johann Jakob Frey 1813-1865  Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

“Sunrise” Johann Jakob Frey 1813-1865 Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

The question “What is Art?” has been debated for centuries. Yet even after all this time we do not have one universal definition. Of course that may mean: Do we need a definition of what is Art?

The apparent answer is “no.” We need food, water, and shelter at the most basic level. After the basic essentials of life are met, we need rules of governance when there are two or more of us living in the same area. Those rules may take the form of etiquette as well as government and religious regulations.

Still we debate the issue.

It was brought to mind when I saw once again the amazing image “Times Square 2010” by Bert Monroy.

That image on his website is not a photograph. It was created in Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator on Monroy’s computer. In terms of technology it’s impressive: it took 4 years to create, has over 500,000 layers, and the image size is 60” by 300”. But does all that technology mean that scene does not qualify as Art?

Many define Art as something created in a pure and traditional way. However, defining Art as something that is made “traditionally” is a moving target. What is Hi Tech today is Caveman tomorrow. Some people do not view photographs that are developed in a digital darkroom, with the latest version of Photoshop, as Art. How could it be Art, they argue, when the software “did all the work?”

In addition there is a whole group of people who view any piece that has been touched in any way by a computer as losing the right to the term “Art.” Old fashioned photography taken with just the camera and whatever light and scenery were available….now THAT is Art. Except there are those who did (and still do) view cameras as an unacceptable technological aid. TRUE Art is achieved with paints, brushes, canvas, or by sculpting.

Perhaps for some the question might even be: Are oil paints too techy for someone who prefers paint to be made from natural plant materials?

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