Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0110, Febuary 17, 2017


Once More with Feeling

"Is this Art?" Prickles asks. I have no idea.

Copyright 2017 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

     Prickles (the hedgehog I live with and my most sincere critic) and I have spent many hours debating the peculiar question that had emerged sometime in the nineteenth century of our era, namely: "what is Art with capital 'A'?". Prior to that time there was no capital "A" Art. As for the lower case "a" art, there was a general consensus about what it was: the craft of making images and objects that represented and recorded for posterity instances of human experience of the world - usually of the pleasant, curious or uplifting variety but also including polemical and utopian works of ideologically inspired imagination. In any case, a craft with a set of clear objectives: to please, to record, to instruct, to persuade, to inspire. A subsection of the craft specialized in creation of patterns to please or intrigue the senses - the decorative arts.

     Then came the revolution: the lower case "a" artist evolved to become the Artist with capital "A", corresponding to the Auteur in the literary Arts. While capital "A" Art subsumed the lower case "a" art, it broke free of all the categories that defined lower case "a" art and became something far harder to define, perhaps indefinable. The artist's role vastly expanded from that of a talented and skilled artisan to that of a demigod endowed with extraordinary aesthetic super-powers. Perhaps the most cogent definition of capital "A" Art is simply "that which the Artist declares to be Art". And it is the capital "A" Artist who declares herself as such. Her task is to convince others of her Artistry. There are no universal standards by which capital "A" Art may be discerned from non-Art. The Artist's aesthetic judgment and her skill at selling it to the public is the sole criterion (though it helps if the pitch includes art-historical references that an art critic can hang her hat on).

     So here's how we go about answering your original question, Prickles. By virtue of my astonishing aesthetic powers of discernment I hereby unequivocally declare myself to be an Artist with capital "A" and as such I declare the above image to be capital "A" Art. Case closed. The answer, Prickles, is: yes, it is Art. Appreciate and enjoy! "OK," says Prickles, "I'll try."

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