The Laws of Nature

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Role of Beauty in Art

Last year I attended a lecture entitled "What is Art?" given by Arthur Danto, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy from Columbia University and art critic for the New York Times and Art Forum. In defining art, he identified two criteria necessary for something to be deemed a work of art: 1) it has meaning, and 2) it embodies that meaning. (This inspired me to begin teaching workshops across the country based on concept development.) But, Danto asks, what about aesthetics? Should art have an aesthetic dimension? NO, he says. Beauty is important in life, but not in art. He cited Duchamp who viewed beauty as "retinal flutter" and pointed out the Dada movement as examples. So, Danto adds, beauty is important in life, and certainly is one of the virtues, but art isn't impoverished if it isn't beautiful. ART IS AN AESTHETIC OF MEANING, it needs conceptual weight.
I agree with Dantoto a point. Although I tend to make eggshells look beautiful, that's not the point. It's really about the concept - FRAGILITY - of the psyche, of life, of our investments and the beauty that can be found in chaos, in the fragments of our psyches, in the remains. If you'd like to read a really great opinion about all this, please read Margaret Ryall's blog: She wrote an informed response to my comments on Danto and beauty on her October 21st entry comments area. Take a look!


Unknown said...

and then there is beauty in the eye of the beholder...beautiful in one culture is not in another. I just came back from Margaret's blog. I love an intellectual joust now and then.

-Don said...

As I was reading your post I was thinking about how I wanted to respond. I'm really tired of work often being dismissed by critics and those who write about art because it has aesthetic beauty. That's like assuming a cheerleader is stupid and has no substance just because she's pretty and full of life. ...And then you pointed me to Margaret's response and I thought, "Yay, someone else feels that way, too". She just put it in a much more concise and diplomatic way.

Thanks for keeping this dialog flowing. I found out a long time ago that I learn more about myself as I'm forced to view how others see things.

BTW, are the paintings associated with your most recent postings new? At least, they are to me and I have been enjoying them tremendously. The colors on the one for this post are spectacular.


Unknown said...

Good point, Sheila! Thanks :)

Thanks, Don, for your substantive comments. I know, I know ... sometimes my head hurts, too! :)
The painting on this post is about 2 years old but the other recent posts are new ones - "mini's". Thanks!