October 9, 2007, 6:30 pm; posted by
Filed under Articles, Erin  | 7 Comments

I read a play once entitled “Art,” by Yasmina Reza. I don’t know how many of you will have read it, but frankly, I did not get it the first time through. Like most art, in fact.

Call me uncultured, shallow, unperceptive, base, but there happens to be quite a lot in the world that I can’t help but admire mostly for its aesthetic quality upon first glance.

I’m not the type of person to identify a natural nimbus right off the bat, or to make some sort of correlation between Henry VIII’s codpiece and the monarchy’s propaganda. It just doesn’t occur to me.

The play “Art,” now that I have spent considerable time discussing and enjoying it, actually has quite a bit to say about a person’s opinions on art. The plot revolves around 3 friends and their arguments about a painting, about 3 feet by 5 feet, completely white, with white lines running across the center. The man who bought the painting (Serge) is totally enamored with it, because it was expensive and painted by someone presumably famous. His good friend Marc thinks it was a ridiculous waste of money and isn’t impressed. The third man, Yvan, continually tries to make peace between the two, revealing how trying to please everyone rarely works — but may be the only chance for living that we have.

What opinions, judgments, or appreciations of art that I have at first glance seem to me to be kind of a mediating factor between the “greatness” of the piece of art itself (I’ve looked at quite a few “great” pieces of art and completely missed their artistic or historical significance) and the popular reception of that art. Oh sure, Van Gogh may have been a wonderful, talented man, but I can’t get into his work.

Perhaps the opinions that we all hold on things as enigmatic as art and music are really the only chance we have for thoughtful discussion, spirited argument, and living in a way that doesn’t just melt all our ideas together until nothing original is recognizable.

After all, to quote Reza, “If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are.”


7 Comments to “Mediation”

  1. Steve on October 9th, 2007 7:02 pm

    Hmm… I’m not sure I follow completely. Are you saying that all artistic expression (or related opinions) is equally valuable and worthy of consideration as long as it reflects ‘who someone is’? That there’s no inherently good art, only what appeals to us personally?

  2. Erin on October 9th, 2007 10:32 pm

    I’m saying that as long as there is art, some people are going to judge individual pieces as “good,” (though the meanings of that word are many – maybe skillfully done is what i’m looking for) and some as “bad.” I’m saying that those opinions are often both valid, and when people try to make an overarching method for judging what art is or what it should be, they lose the ability to see the piece with their own eyes. (Perhaps cliche and postmodern, but it is what makes sense to me, a non-artist)

  3. Steve on October 9th, 2007 10:50 pm

    I guess I lose you on the meaning of the word ‘good,’ because I think skill can be measured and explained to some degree. It’s one thing to say it’s okay for you to hate Starry Night and for me to love it, based on our perceptions of the painting… but I believe — I am compelled to believe — that objective truth is as real in paint as in word. Value judgments about art is what separates Kinkade from da Vinci.

    Well, that and, you know, genius.

    All that said, I do agree that any ‘method’ of judging “what art is or what it should be” is doomed to failure. Explain even the funniest joke and the humor dies — I imagine the same result would attach to any procedural form of art appreciation…

  4. David on October 10th, 2007 5:57 pm

    I think time is all that separates Kincaid and Da Vinci. Kincaid comes at a time when art (in terms of painting) has done and been everything imaginable so he uses his talents and genius to make money producing beautiful images that people will buy. Da Vinci came at a time when art was being wrested away from the tightly controlled domain of the Catholic Church and he had all of what was possible in front of him to experiment with. Anything he did—not only because of his great talents and genius but because everything was new—would be impressive. If he were alive today he would be the Bill Gates of Art using his genius to get rich. And he would be really, really, old.

  5. Steve on October 10th, 2007 6:02 pm

    If Kincaid is a genius, it’s in business — whereas, da Vinci, I submit, may be the single most talented man ever to walk the earth.

  6. David on October 10th, 2007 7:17 pm

    Yes, I admit, I was just trying to start trouble there…Kincaid is a dork.

  7. Erin on October 10th, 2007 11:38 pm

    I once heard Donald Miller referred to to the Kincaid of Christian writing. Yowch! (and off topic)

    But perhaps the absolute value of art is not to be judged. Quality/skill of the artist certainly can be, but not the ability of the art to have meaning, no matter the genius of the artist.

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