Through the Reflection (aka: The Art of Questioning Art)

What is art? Is it famous paintings encased in glass at museums? Is it the classical music from two hundred years ago? Does modern pop music also count as art? Is it dance? Is it literature, scenery, or architecture? Is art, like Plato said, merely an imitation of an imitation; simply a deceptive illusion of life? Is it enough to simply say that we like art, or should art mean something more? How do we know the difference between what is art and what is entertainment?

The Goddess Minerva surrounded by the 9 Muses, who inspired each branch of the Arts

The Goddess Minerva surrounded by the 9 Muses, who inspired each branch of the Arts

 

I love the arts. And it is because of that passion for the arts that I ask these questions. Years ago, when I was a drama student in high school, my instructor posed the above question:  How do we know the difference between what is art and what is entertainment? The short answer is this: Entertainment simply serves to treat the senses, and everyone will experience it the same way. Art, however, is far deeper. Rarely will two people see it in the exact same way.

I prefer to put it like this: Entertainment tells us, this is the way life is. Art makes us ask the question, is this the way life is?

In other words: Buffy the Vampire Slayer = Entertainment. Girl sees vampire. Vampires are evil. Girl stakes vampires in the heart and kills them. Good wins. Yay for everyone!

However, Shaun of the Dead = Art. Because, although Shaun and his friends are out there killing the obviously evil brain-hungry zombies, we are left to wonder if the real “Zombie Apocalypse” is already happening all around us, only those zombies are the apathetic, complacent people we already know.  The film also poses the question, “When our loved ones transform into zombies, do we destroy them in order to save ourselves, or do we stay and help them?” (Surprisingly deep thinking from an otherwise silly and ridiculous movie).

Scene from Shaun of the Dead (2004). Is it art or entertainment? Are those zombies or concert fans? Or are the two one and the same?

Scene from Shaun of the Dead (2004). Is it art or entertainment? Are those zombies or concert fans? Or are the two one and the same?

There are many more ways to define the arts and why they matter to people. They are a reflection of the human spirit. They are an expression of that which we experience in the natural world. They are a tool for communicating the thoughts, ideas, and emotions which we cannot express in another way. But I think the most important thing is that whether it is through a painted canvas, an artfully crafted sculpture, a melody, poetic lyrics, an inspiring story, or dance, art has a way of touching and rousing the spirit like nothing else can. Perhaps there is a lot of truth in Plato’s definition of art as mere imitation of the real world. But often it is through those reflections of real life that we best see ourselves.

The Kiss (Lovers), 1908-1909 Gustav Klimt

The Kiss (Lovers), 1908-1909 Gustav Klimt

Why I Am An Artist

 

Can you see in the way I move

the flow of the river

flashing green ripples

of glittering suns?

The smooth curves of the earth

and violent, rocky  passion

of the sea?

Do you feel the way it moves inside of me?

Can you hear in the colors I paint

the harmonic battle

the clash and attack of drums that

startle melody awake?

The sweetness of flutes

rising to meet the dawn

like the song of the first bird of spring?

Do you hear it sing?

 

¿Puedes ver en la forma en que me muevo
el flujo del rio
las ondas verdes y brillantes
de soles relucientes?
¿Las curvas suaves de la tierra
y la pasión violenta y rocosa
del mar?
¿Sientes como se mueve en mi interior?
¿Puedes oir en los colores que pinto
la batalla armónica
el choque y ataque de la batería que
le despierta  sorprendida a la melodia?
¿La dulzura de las flautas
Que se levantan para encontrarse con el amanecer
Como la canción del primer pájaro de la primavera?
¿Lo oyes cantar?