Wednesday, November 30, 2005


My simply working definition of art is Randian in nature. In a sentence, art is the creative recreation of the artist's perceived reality and/or subjective value judgments. This recreation can be as concrete (an accurate drawing or poetic description) or as abstract (a song or interpretive dance) as the artist so chooses, and the values expressed can be any values at all, so long as they are the artist's.

This definition entails a few additional elements. First, the art created must be specific to the artist himself. Viewers/listeners/readers with similar perceptions of the world and with similar value judgments just might find merit and worth in someone's creation, but the art is not created in order to express their perceptions and values, only those of the artist. Naturally, this excludes any sort of pandering to an audience as a legitimate form of art. Pop music, for example, when written simply to sell records to a target audience, cannot be held as art. So too are movies with plenty of gratuitous violence or sexual content where the film maker does not actually hold sex or violence as values.

Secondly, the definition requires that art be creative, that is, it must be constructed by the artist. Photography is not art unless is captures reality, or a value judgment, in a creative, constructive way; i.e., the photographer frames a shot representative of a value judgment, or uses color and shape in a picture to make a statement about his perception of the world. By contrast, photography that is not art would include headshots of actors, family portraits, or things and landscapes where no creative effort (mental or otherwise) has been expended.

Lastly, art must express either a perception of reality, or make a value judgment (or do both). A representation of a perception of reality might be a painting of life as it is, whereas a representation of a value judgment might be a painting of life as it should be. A painting that was both a representation of reality and a value judgment might be a painting in which the artist condemned or praised the subjects depicted therein. Postmodern types of art which make a statement against art by making ridiculous the practice of it are, ironically, art. Postmodern types of art which make ridiculous practices of art simply for making art ridiculous are certainly not art.

There is not, can probably cannot be, any real rational justification for this definition and this view. We might look to the purpose of art to see further what it is, but the idea provided is both a definition as well as a purpose: art exists for the sake of portraying perception and values. Furthermore, art exists as an outlet for the artist, an opportunity to share his world with others as well as express the things which exist inside him.

In all of this, of course, it is quite clear that art is only an enterprise for the sake of the artist himself, which is problematic in a world which consumes art like a commodity. In my next installment, I'll examine art as a commodity in light of my definition of art and discuss how it might be effectively traded in our increasingly economic world.


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