What is Art?

What is art really? You can look up the definition online, but that would be absolutely useless because art has hundreds of definitions– it can’t conform to just one. Baffled? Yeah, a lot of people are. The very term “art” itself has become so ambiguous, especially because the spectrum of works considered as art has massively expanded. A Rembrandt painting can lie on the far left, while a “candid” selfie of you can lie on the right. Hey, you never know what you’ll see because it’s art, right?

Let’s backtrack a moment. You’re sitting in your art history class, mere seconds away from dozing off. You ask yourself why on earth you took this class in the first place. Oh right, for a GE credit.  You tell yourself you’ve got five more weeks until this nightmarish hell is over and done with. I mean, what really is the point of art history anyways? And a more important question: why should you care? “Art is subjective” is a phrase that everyone has heard at some point in their lives. Yes, art is absolutely subjective, but its unanimously agreed upon that art has to allure and to be able to speak to the viewer. Art is most definitely eye candy. The Mona Lisa is art, yes. So is Van Gogh’s Starry Night. And works by Francisco Goya, Gustav Klimt, and Hieronymous Bosch. Art is also the posters you see stuck on walls on your way to class, the designs on the billboards you glance at during a red light, the music you listen to, those new pairs of Adidas you’ve been eyeing, the building your class is in, and even the food you eat. Art is an overarching concept that applies to many many things, not just drawings and paintings. Granted, art is most certainly not everything, and should not be everything. But the idea is that art can be created from the ordinary and the ordinary poses the ability to make great subjects.

Alright, great. So how does this even apply to me, you ask. Art is more a verb than an adjective, because its an active process not just a single entity. That being said, not everything is art and it would be an absolute tragedy to think so. Art is anything that succeeds in captivating your attention. Art brings something new to the table. It inspires, provokes, incites, and dispels. It’s an every evolving concept, which is why people are so puzzled on how to define it. The biggest takeaway from this, is how YOU define it. Art is more than elementary-school arts and crafts and way more than just painting/drawing.

Art is a world of its own. Which brings me back to my earlier question, why should you care? Can you picture a world without character? If you’re honest, probably not. If cities like New York, Paris, London, Mumbai, or Mexico City had no flair, no quirks, it would be nearly impossible to tell each city apart. Art is a driving force behind this character. The idea of “art” isn’t always a tangible one. Art is first and foremost a visual concept, but the idea of art (art as a verb) can most definitely be defined as such as well. You should care because your life would incredibly dull and bland without any art. Food packages would look the same, as with clothes, electronic design, building design, anything. Those art history classes probably don’t mean much to you, but in the grand scheme of things, art isn’t just for the old and rich. It’s for everyone, anywhere, of any age, time, and occupation. It’s just something you’ve got to embrace.

-Ananya Mandiraju, ADC Curatorial Intern

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