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Understanding and Evaluating the Arts Essay

Art is subjective. It varies in recognition and identification, and translates differently from one individual to the next. Art can constitute the traditional slap of paint on canvass, or a drawing and sketch; to some people, it can also relate to something as arbitrary as the instance of a sunrise or sunset, and the ocean.. At most, the English journalist and art critic Jeanette Winterson considers art as a sublime element of humanity when she writes, “What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous. ” (Winterson).

In a general, and less incensed take on the subject matter, art is defined as the result of creative human activity composed of the ideology, opinons and particular persuasions of the artist or individual creating it. Under this definition, art is categorized into different forms such as painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, printmaking, cnceptual art, installation art, and performance art, among others (Barnes). But though art may vary in recognition and definition, the following works exist as a general example of what art constitutes, based from the aforementioned definitions of the subject.

Painting While almost every painting by any renowned artist can easily qualify as ‘art,’ the Russian born French painter, Marc Chagall perhaps best encapsulates, and immediately brings into attention art’s capacity, as has been previously referred to by Winterson, to transfrom ‘the mechanical into the miraculous’. His paintings, which mostly consist of dream-like elements, of lovers and angels afloat, among other things, affirms art’s capacity to gravitate people towards the miraculous.

This is made even more evident in I and the Village (1911) in which Chagall paints a a picture of his childhood home where churches, houses, farm animals, and people from his community intertwine, in varying shapes, shades and colors. He takes the mundane and the routine instance of life in his village, or any village for that matter, and translates it into a vivid, pulsating portrait of one as he sees it in his head, evoking a sublime sentiment on the part of people viewing it. Sculpture Ssculptures have always held a prominent part in the art world.

One of the most prominent of which is Michelangelo’s Pieta (1499) in which the Italian artist is able to translate into marble a portrait of Mary holding the mortal body of Jesus Christ in her arms. Every intricate detail such as the creases on the virgin’s robes and the way by which Christ’s limp body falls on her lap, the expression on both Mary and Christ’s face, and most importantly the likeness of the marble sculptures to real bodies, and the humanity which is evoked through the said piece of seemingly cold and inanimate object speaks volumes.

And communicates a sentiment and ideology to people who perceive of it, which is what most great art is about. Architecture Antoni Gaudi immediately comes to mind when the subject of architecture and art is concerned. Gaudi’s inspired architectural designs, again affirms us of art’s capacity to rescue or release us from the mechanical drag of the routine. And buildings, in their mundane and uniform dullness is probably the last thing to come to mind, when one mentions art.

But Gaudi is able to do so, to transform buildings into something which could be deemed as an artform, through his architectural genius, and the less than common, aesthetic appeal which he endows every building with. Examples of these are Sagrada Familia (1926), Casa Mila (1912) and the wonderful, fantasy-castle type sublime restoration of a building that is the Casa Batllo (1907). Photography Taking effective photographs which convey meaning and evoke particular sentiments is more than just about ‘ponting and shooting. ‘ Edward Weston transcends the mere act of documentation that is photography to an art form.

His portraits of female bodies in the nude (1923-1945) in their seeming black and white mutedness, instead of being automatically dismissed as pornography, is treated as exactly the opposite. Weston is able to convey in the said series of photographs, the fragility and sacredness of the human body. Each picture overwhelms with emotion and a seeming fullness of idea in every shot. It transcends mere documentation and gravitates towards the ‘miraculousness’ which only art is able to afford. Printmaking Rembrandt Van Rijn’s Three Crosses (1653) exemplifies the art form that is printmaking.

Althugh Rembrandt is better known for his paintings than his printmaking, Three Crosses is given the same regard. The etching relates another religious episode, in which Jesus is pinned at the cross, two murderers crucified like himself joins him in welcoming death. A group of people stand huddled at their feet, and the rest of the picture exists in a play of light and shadows. The print evokes and conveys the drama of Christ’s crucifixion and communicates the artist’s vision and interpretation on the subject. Conceptual Art

Art which isn’t confined to aesthetic values, but in presenting and evoking an alternative ideology and consciousness, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) illustrates and exemplifies exactly this. The said artform is a standard old-fashioned urinal which the author salvaged form obscurity, signed his name on, and entered in an exhibition. Despite not being well received, the controversy exacted by the piece provoked people to into considering other forms of art, which is what art is also about, it encourages us to broaden our horizons, and depart from what we are typically aware of and confined to. Installation Art

Liza Lou’s Kitchen, in its ode to the routine and the mundane space which most every women work with, or work in at least once everyday transforms people’s view regarding it. Rendered into a marvelous number of million glass beads of different shapes and colors, the result is anything less than “miraculous,” which was what Jeanetter Winterson was ultimately referring to in the quotation in the initial part of this paper, Liza Lou’s work on Kitchen takes a piece of the mundane and the mechanical, and transforms it to something that can only be regarded as miraculous, or in less flamboyant words: art.

Performance Art Jackson Pollock’s incensed abstract-action painting can be categorized as performance art, the manner by which he lays out a canvass on the floor and proceeds to splatter copious and beautiful amount of paint over it, more than the end visual product, is an art form in itself. His incensed take on painting and the physical outpouring of artistic energy which coarses through every part of his body, makes the medium by which he creates his art, another art form altogether.


Barnes, Bernardine. “Art. ” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2008 from http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761556523/Art. html Weston, Edward. “Nudes. ” Retrieved 15 February 2008 from http://www. edward-weston. com/edward_weston. htm Winterson, Jeannete. “Visual Arts: Liza Lou. ” Retrieved 15 February 2008 from http://www. jeanettewinterson. com/pages/content/index. asp? PageID=383 “Gaudi Battlo House. ” Retrieved 15 February 2008 from http://www. gaudiallgaudi. com/AA006.

htm “Marc Chagall: I and The Village. ” The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 15 February 2008 from http://www. moma. org/collection/browse_results. php? object_id=78984 “Pieta by Michelangelo. ” RomaViva. Retrieved 15 February 2008 from http://www. romaviva. com/Vaticano/pieta-michelangelo_eng. htm “The Three Crosses. ” Rijk Museum. Retrieved 15 February 2008 from HYPERLINK “http://www. rijksmuseum. nl/aria/aria_assets/RP-P-1962-39? lang=en” HYPERLINK “http://www. rijksmuseum. nl/aria/aria_assets/RP-P-1962-

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