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About Art (a humble essay) by Frolic Mills

About Art (a humble essay)

Art is one of those words that has millions of definitions that yet leave you wondering what art really is.

Here are some samples:

the Irish Art Encyclopedia: “Art is created when an artist creates a beautiful object, or produces a stimulating experience that is considered by his audience to have artistic merit.”

Here we find when art is created but not what art is.

Dictionary.com defines it as: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

I will agree that art is a form of expression, but what are aesthetics principles? I looked it up and found no principles of any kind. What is beautiful to one can be ugly for another.

Oxford dictionary defines it as: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

This is perhaps the best definition I found, but I just wished it had a wider spectrum. Not everything has to come from imagination to be art, take for example the work of photographers; they do need technical skills but not imagination necessarily. Or the work of still arts, where a painter sits in front of an apple and a bottle and tries to replicate it on a canvas. Also what about acting, writing, poetry, music … are those not art?

And so on…

Standford Encyclopedia offers the following:

“The definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy. Whether art can be defined has also been a matter of controversy. The philosophical usefulness of a definition of art has also been debated.”

Seems like art is some sort of word that can only be partially defined or that it shouldn’t be defined at all. The great    thing about this then, is that it opens the door for debate and thought. Anyone can offer their thoughts about what it is and not be necessarily wrong, and I think this is why we have “specialized” critics in the field of art. My question here is how did they become “experts” if there isn’t a cohesive study of what art is. I suppose one can read many books, and study technical skills to measure, compare and contrast the works of artists. I also suppose one can know a lot about the artist’s life to establish the ‘mood’ of a certain art piece, but does that really make one an expert on art?

Having studied at Parsons School of Design, the Pasadena Art Center and a minor degree in arts from Western Michigan University, I suppose gives me the fragile right to take a shot at a definition of art, after all it’s not like the art wheel has been properly invented to begin with.

So here I go:

Art is a form of communication produced through an admirable level of technical skill which can be appreciated for its message, high level of technical expertise or emotional impact.

Art becomes successful when there is a generally agreed upon opinion based on a random circumstance only known to God, art critiques or mass hysteria that its message, technical skill or emotional impact has value.

I can just hear some people screaming WHO THE HELL DOES FROLIC MILLS THINK HE IS DEFINING ART? And I agree, I am not educated enough in this field to provide any sort of conclusion or formal opinion on art. What I am though, is a liberal thinker who can observe the world and formulate educated opinions as to what is true for me.

Before you bash me completely though, take the time to see if this definition works for you. It is open enough to include all arts: music, paintings, sculpture, acting, writing, poetry, fashion design, photography, graphic design, and all other fields I could think about. It also distinguishes any ordinary expression from art. We all made a picture of a house when we were 6 years old, so why then is our cute little picture not worth much? Because it lacks the admirable technical ability and the end result of an emotional impact. I left the word beauty out of the definition because beauty, pretty, beautiful, aesthetics, etc are all subjective and not objective. I have seen what, in my opinion, is a rather hideous communication, and yet it sold for millions of dollars in one of those auction houses in New York. This then leads to what I feel is an art must: Message, technical skill and emotional impact are senior to aesthetics.

'The Scream' by Edward Munch

Take for example the painting ‘The Scream’ by Edward Munch. I asked many of my friends if they thought that was a beautiful image and ALL said no, I asked them if they thought it had a high level of technical expertise and they again said no. What I didn’t tell them was that this painting just set a new record for the latest price for a piece of artwork ever sold when Edward Munch’s “The Scream” went for $119.9 million to an unidentified buyer.

Drawn in 1895, ‘The Scream’ is the artist’s most famous work and one of the most recognizable works in all art. It also stands for a symbol of human anxiety.  Perhaps in this case, it is the message which makes this painting valuable.

Another great example is The Beatles. Music critiques don’t quite agree that their musical technical skill was particularly high, in fact they own the title of the worst song ever written with Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da but the masses said it was great and so it remains.

A great art critique would be that person who can interpret the message of the artist (whether real or imagined) and produce enough interest in others to want to own it. I remember watching the movie Amadeus where the success of an opera was solely dependent of whether the king yawned or not. if he clapped enthusiastically it was an instant success, if he yawned it was closed! So the king became an art critique just by his body reactions, and others agreed with the king and accepted this as truth without thinking for themselves. Year’s later some other “Opera expert” might have said: This is heavenly music and with this piece Mozart unmasks his heart and human emotions…and so on,  and bang! Opera companies around the world started to produce them again.

The other day a friend pointed me to an anonymous website that offered a comment about SL Magazines and all they had to say was that some publications had prettier layouts than others. This is quite a fascinating way to assign value to a magazine. It’s like assigning value to a book by its cover. Compare for example TIME Magazine with VOGUE. One can say that VOGUE has minimalistic and modern graphics and TIME has a more editorial tone. Who is to say which one has more value? Time is by far more successful than VOGUE as far as sales and readership. So what is more important the layout or the message expressed in the written word?

BOSL has always been about discovering and spreading the word about great talents in Second Life and I stand behind our great team of writers. Some of them are actually published real life authors, and when I read their articles I know we have something of value to say; we provoke interest and admiration and that’s the only real end product of any magazine. Top that with the expert editing supervision of real life journalist Persia Bravin and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the work we do.

I love modern and minimalistic graphics on a museum of modern art poster or in a black and white fashion spread with light gray letters over the white and a red little column somewhere in the bottom lower corner, but do I think this is the right layout for all articles no matter what the subject matter is? I do not. If this was true the most successful magazines in the world like: Reader’s Digest, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, etc would not exist.

So next time you want to take a stab at me by criticizing magazine layout, please bore someone else with your ignorance, because quite frankly I don’t give a damn.


Frolic Mills












Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. As the director of the Betterhouse Museum of Modern Art here in SL, I find myself surrounded by art for a good portion of my day. But define it? That’s like defining joy or sadness; its meaning is unique and personal, and certainly not “one size fits all.”

    I can’t even say to any degree of certainty whether art is created for the patrons of art or for the artist. I think much of it HAS to be created. The artists experience an emotional state that simply must be expressed, and words alone are unable to convey these emotions. As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

    By the way, “The Scream,” (one of several similar works he created) is often misunderstood. In this series of paintings, it’s the environment which is screaming, presumably at the impact of the Industrial Revolution and it’s rapid pace of change. The man on the bridge is reacting to this silent cry for help, and the surreal shapes and bold colors hammer home the feeling of angst Munch was trying to convey. Seen in this context, the painting is just as relevant today as it was when painted. Great art is timeless.

    Thanks for sharing Frolic, I enjoyed reading your views.

  2. Hello everyone!!!
    yes absolutely agree,
    It happened once some month ago to incurred in a blog were giving very bad critics on almost every pageant, was a contest in which I was finalist and… omg I felt suddenly so upset to read that things, it was surely the right opinion for the person that was writing (if exist right or wrong) and not for me, may be many others had the same opinion, but the most important thing I’m sure is to be happy of you have done and what you are..
    Art is giving emotion is like a good communication has to move something inside you otherwise is only a “seen and gone”.. not easy thou to reach the ability to express your feeling as good as to let them feel at the people looking at you, reading you, talking with you.
    Agreed with Frolic and Alethia too Art is emotion and so not objective that hard to give value!
    Kisses :*

  3. Alethia Bonham says:

    Totalmente de acuerdo con tu definición.
    A lo largo del tiempo las definiciones de arte cambian, así lo estético se subordina a lo artístico . Sólo se puede definir el arte por factores externos a las propias obras , bien de tipo institucional o a las mismas decisiones de agentes artistíscos (el rey de Amadeus, por ejemplo).
    Teóricamente el arte según algunos es un concepto que ha perdido vigencia y la desaparición de este conlleva a la desdefinición del arte.
    Sin embargo, yo estoy contigo: ” El arte es una forma de comunicación que se produce a través de un admirable nivel de habilidad técnica que puede ser apreciado por su mensaje, alto nivel de conocimientos técnicos ni de impacto emocional.”
    Besos! 8)

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