What Is Art?
When people speak of art in everyday conversation, they are usually speaking about the art of the upper classes. Art collectors, art history majors, and art museums all partake in a narrowly-defined form of art that has been decided upon by academics and by affluent, white-haired men and women.
It is wonderful that this type of art exists, for there are a lot of beautiful works within its scope; however, it should not be seen as the only art. Art, like every other idea, is completely personal and should not be dictated by popular opinion.
Art, to me, is any work that gives one a feeling of aesthetic pleasure, transporting one out of the present moment and into an emotional world that is defined by one’s personal associations with the work. The second part of my definition, that the work transports one into an emotional world defined by one’s personal associations with the art, is important because it broadens the definition to encompass all tastes.
Art is as individual a matter as food. Certain foods that are delicious to some are quite yucky to others. And the amount of skill and preparation that goes into a particular food does not necessarily make it more enjoyable, for not everyone will even like that type of food in the first place. It is the same with art; a 16th-century painting on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be breathtaking to some, while others aren’t affected by it at all. To criticize a person for not appreciating a piece of art is to attack that person’s innermost preferences, a highly egotistical thing to do.
Because art is so personal, there is no such thing as a universal work of art. Tradition may label a particular work “art” while others simply see it as a relic of culture. I, for instance, find some Disney songs to be more artistic and meaningful than any of the opera I have ever heard. On the other hand, there are many people who find opera evocative, and they are equally entitled to feel as they do because there is no right or wrong in art – just feeling.
When one can separate one’s honest opinions from the opinions dictated by tradition, there is much more art in the world than one has ever noticed. I sometimes wish there was a museum dedicated to the things that each generation loved as children: classic toys, bicycles, cartoon characters, and images of different decades. Such a display would fill me with thought and emotion, momentarily removing me from the everyday world – which, to me at least, is the epitome of what art is supposed to do.
Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults.