But Is It Art?

A guy putting on lipstick

Weâ??ve been discussing the recent controversy surrounding one of Nan Goldinâ??s photographs that was recently seized by police from an exhibition due to fears that it might breach pornography laws. We ended up asking if the work was even really art or just a snapshot. This got me thinking about what constitutes art so I thought Iâ??d write a post about.

So what does count as art? Well my trusted Pocket Oxford English Dictionary says, â??art â?? n, 1. the expression of creative skill in a visual form such as painting or sculpture. 2. paintings, drawings, and sculpture as a whole.â?? Well I guess that should include photography too (goes to show how old my dictionary is). So by definition it doesnâ??t really matter what I paint, draw or photograph or indeed how I go about doing so, it can all be classified as art.

I donâ??t think thatâ??s a good enough definition though. I think art needs to be more than that to be called art. Surely for something to be art there aught to be some sort of expression within it or at least some sort of meaning to it, and not just that, but a meaning or expression that the artist intended to be in there and is in someway communicated by the piece.

Is the definition of art a personal thing? Often Iâ??ve heard people say that something isnâ??t art, seemingly just because they donâ??t like it, so is the reverse true? Can something only be art if you like it? There have always been artists who have challenged our perception of art. Artists like Andy Warhol and more recently Damien Hirst, to name just two, have created pieces that have caused uproar within society. Does this mean they canâ??t really be considered art?

Is the question answered by the subject of the piece? For instance is a photograph of starving children in a war torn country taken by a news reporter art? After all the primary function of the photography here would be reportage. The most important thing is that the photograph offers a realistic portrayal of the situation. Is it even wrong to call it art? If it isnâ??t wrong to call it art, isnâ??t it at least disrespectful to the subjects of the photo to consider it as such? Would a photographic reproduction of Constableâ??s â??The Hay Wainâ? support the opposite argument?

What counts as art for you?

An experiment

If you would, take a look at the photo above. I took it a few years ago and at the time I had every intention for it to be labeled art. I wonâ??t share with you what I think of it now, but I will when the results are in. Is it art? Let us know what you think, leave us a comment.

4 Replies to “But Is It Art?”

  1. Isn’t there a saying “art lies in the eyes of the beholder?” (Right, you got me and my drift, that is.)

    I would say the picture is a work of art. It got me thinking, I like the composition, that’s enough for me. Plain and simple.

  2. @Charlie: If you need to know 😉

    1. I should do more b/w myself (neglected b/w for quite some time now).
    2. The combination of Jewelry, the Lipstick and the body-hair works well, even if a person just glances on the picture. It’s uncommon enough stop most people dead while walking by.
    3a. The contrast looks like really hard Ilford-paper.
    3b. Was the contrast created by camera or an image-manipulation program?
    4. From a graphic point of view, everything has just the right proportions, was the shot taken this way or cropped afterwards?

    Conclusion: The person who took the picture was either doing everything on purpose or this was an extremely lucky accident. Thus: IMHO, it is art. If it was an accident, then the creator should not stress this fact, but smile secretive when asked. :mrgreen:

    Just a quick rundown, though. 😉

  3. Wow! What a breakdown. 🙂

    Well to answer your questions, the shot wasn’t cropped and the costume and jewelry were picked on purpose. The fact that the guy is pretty hairy was more luck than anything.

    The photo was taken digitally using a Canon 350D at 55mm, ISO 100, f22 with a shutter speed of 1/10.

    I wish I could say that the tones were created by me being clever with the camera and lighting but alas it was mostly Photoshop. However the highlights created in the image were done on purpose using one studio light with a shoot through umbrella.

    As for any other details about the photo I shall just smile secretively. 😉

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