Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Portraits, 1966
I've just finished reading the seventh and final chapter of Cynthia Freeland's book, But is it art? and am impressed with her indepth examination of what makes art art. In the last few chapters she unfolds another definition for art as she travels through the theories of Tolstoy, Freud, Danto and others that we've previously discussed on this blog. Freeland concludes her book with this definition by the prominent environmental artist Robert Irwin: art is a continuous examination of our perceptual awareness and a continual expansion of our awareness of the world around us.
I can see why Freeland likes this definition. It treats art not only as the expression of the internal thoughts of the artist, but also as an expression of the world outside of the artist. This isn't an original thought, however. It's been offered in many different forms, but I think Irwin packaged it nicely for us.
So, when Freeland considers art in all its forms from "shock art" to "beautiful" art and everything in between, she's also providing us with the broadest possible definition for why ALL of it is art. It appears that boundaries are fuzzy and ever expanding (kind of like the worn out elastic band on an old pair of underwear!). Where do we go from here?
Next week I'll begin a new book: Art & Fear: observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking by Bayles and Orland. I hope you'll join me in that discussion, too!