Wednesday Philosophical Query: Art and Self-Understanding

From Gadamer’s great Truth and Method:

The pantheon of art is not a timeless present that presents itself to pure aesthetic consciousness, but the act of a mind and spirit that has collected and gathered itself historically. Our experience of the aesthetic too is a mode of self-understanding.  Self-understanding always occurs through understanding something other than the self, and includes the unity and integrity of the other. Since we meet the artwork in the world and encounter a world in the individual artwork, the work of art is not some alien universe into which we are magically transported for a time.  Rather, we learn to understand ourselves in and through it, and this means that we sublate the discontinuity and atomism of isolated experiences in the continuity of our own existence.  For this reason, we must adopt a standpoint in relation to art and the beautiful that does not pretend to immediacy but corresponds to the historical nature of the human condition.

In graduate school, some ten years ago, I held vociferously to a notion that art should be separated from any essential relation to truth, flashing the divorce papers in my fellow students’ faces whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Yeah, I was obnoxious back then too.  Since then, my reading of Paul Ricoeur and Gadamer has inspired me to celebrate the remarriage in my mind of art and the understanding of truth–including and especially the creatively evolving truth of who and what I am.

What about you?  Do you hang in or around the art for art’s sake camp, bear the standard depicting the union of art and truth, or position yourself somewhere in the middle or elsewhere?

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Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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57 Responses

  1. Rodak says:

    If I can offer a link to my own blog without being accused of self-promotion, I can give my best answer to the question you pose in this post:

    Art should be the fuel that allows us to achieve the velocity necessary to escape the ego’s gravitational pull in the attempt to rise toward transcendence.

  2. b-psycho says:

    Art being subjective, it seems like to claim it as expressing Truth with a capital T is to defeat the purpose of art itself. Most I could say is it can express what the artist sees as truth or get whoever is experiencing it to see that interpretation & take it how they will, even to the point of questioning the concept of truth as either of them understand it.

    It can’t be grounded in absolutely nothing, since we’re all human. But we’re not mind-readers, & fact isn’t the point.

  3. NewDealer says:

    Are we only talking about visual/fine art or all arts?

    Generally, I am not in the Victorian camp of “Art for Art’s sake”. Though this period is one of my least favorite periods of arts. I know many people whose artistic tastes seem to have stopped somewhere around the pre-Raphealites. I dislike the pre-Raphealites very much. I like a lot of older art but find myself more drawn to the post-Modernists and going forward.

    Art can help us find truths that are both personal-psychological and also relate the broader world. Art is often very revealing psychologically on both the artist and viewer. We see the sad loneliness and traumas of Harvey Darger and Joseph Cornell in their art. Darger would not have produced his screwed-up masterpiece if not for his horrific childhood in a series of institutions that beat him for being mildly developmentally disabled. We see how such a system hurt those in it and shaped their worldview. This is truth.

    This is not only true for good art but bad art like that crazy right-wing painter from Utah who does the anti-Obama propaganda. It is not of course not true that Obama is a wild-eyed Socialist radical but the artist honestly believes it and this gives his painting some form of power.

    In terms of the audience, I think we divide good and bad art into whether it speaks to us as truth. Hence my hatred of the guy above, the pre-Raphealites, and Thomas Kinkade. The paintings I despise by the pre-Raphealites the most are their paintings depicting a mythic Middle Ages. Like this one:

    There is another famous one of a fair maiden knighting a hero that I also despise.

    I see this as fake and false propaganda (for Victorian Imperialist Adventure). The Dark and Middle Ages were not this pretty. Most people lived brutal lived horrible lives in serfdom/pseudo-Slavery. Perhaps the nobles ate well but the masses suffered famine. There was also the prosecution of Jews. The middle ages might have had a good deal of learning and beauty but they were also very nasty. The paintings above destroy reality. They are untruths and bad.

    Thomas Kinkade is similarly bad because his art depicts things that are done in a realistic manner but impossible. His cozy villages are pure fantasy for people who do not want to contemplate the actual state of the world. A Thomas Kinkade fan wants things to be simple and affirming. There was an article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago that profiled one of the top writers for the Conservative Christian megachurch audience. She helped co-write Going Rogue and the book Heaven is for Real. The top of the article mentioned that this target demographic does not generally want to read work that challenges their views and assumptions. This is why modern Christian Art is often bad, there is no dealing with the world as is, no wrestling with the Angel. It is sweet and sachrene and causes a rot of the brain and heart.

    I think Kincade knew he was selling shit. He knew he was a Con Man. The most artistic thing he ever did was get drunk and piss on a statue of Walt Disney at DisneyLand and scream “This one is for you Walt.” That was Art because it was a true emotion, a true inner thought made real.

    • Glyph says:

      I am going to play Devil’s Advocate here re: Kinkade 🙂

      1.) I suspect 500 years from now, Kinkade will still be remembered, and possibly celebrated. This is partly due to the sheer volume of work produced – some physical copies will undoubtedly survive – and also the fact that they are ‘pretty’, and fairly technically-accomplished paintings.

      2.) I don’t think that producing something that is solely ‘pretty’, or ‘merely’ technically accomplished, that appeals primarily to the senses or emotions without necessarily arousing any deep thought or communicating any other truth, gets necessarily relegated to ‘bad art’. Beauty (which is subjective, no doubt) can indeed be an artistic end in itself.

      Much as it may pain me to admit it, I do not see much difference in gauzily-beautiful, accomplished-yet-“unrealistic” (whatever that means) records such as My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” or the Cocteau Twins’ “Heaven or Las Vegas”, and a Kinkade painting. Those records are the aural equivalent of a scene bathed in a beautiful, otherwordly, impossibly-idealized glow.

      Or take the way Super8 footage, with its grainy flickering & flaring, can evoke a real beauty/heartbreak/happiness/nostalgia, both for those of us with childhood memories when it was *the* home movie format, and also for those too young to remember that, but who still can get a sense of the real lives/subjects on the screen, separated from us by time and degradation, the cracks in the film neatly representative of the depredations of time.

      How do these examples from other mediums differ from a Kinkade painting, other than that these other ones are deemed ‘cool’, while Kinkade is not? Frankly, I suspect that it is because Kinkade reached a mass audience in his lifetime that these others examples mostly didn’t.

      So they retained their cachet; and so would he, if nobody had heard of him until 500 years after his death.

      • NewDealer says:

        Maybe sure. It is amazingly hard to predict what art and culture would be remembered and celebrated. I think the Victorians would have laughed if you told them that Charles Dickens is the author who be seen as really epitomizing their era.

        Perhaps the future will remember JK Rowling, perhaps in 80 years she will be in the dustbin of cultural history and only studied by academics for socio-cultural-historical value and not as literature.

        My remarks on Kincade are almost also certainly a product of being from the New York grad school in arts educated scene. I also dislike that he called himself the Painter of Light and trademarked it. Painter of Light is what Ruskin called J.M.W. Turner. Turner was a much superior artist to Kincade and I find the taking and trademarking of the term to be typical arrogance of the American Marketing class sect:

        This shines above Kinkade in so many ways. The big problem with Kinkade beyond the diabetes inducing sentimentality is that his use of light is completely unnatural. Light does not and cannot work the way it does in a Kinkade painting.

      • NewDealer says:

        The Super 8 comparison is interesting.

        I don’t know the songs/albums mentioned and would need to take a listen first

        • Jaybird says:

          Get “Loveless”. It’s a desert island disc. Seriously.

        • Glyph says:

          RE: Loveless.

          This is the album cover.

          It is very representative of the music therein – warm, blurry, erotic guitar sounds, with recognizable traditionally ‘human’ elements, like voices and hands, submerged therein.

          completely unnatural. Light does not and cannot work the way it does in a Kinkade painting.

          If ‘realism’ is the bar, then I think we are having different conversations. Guitars cannot work the way they do in Loveless (well, NOW they can, but they could not back then, if you see what I mean). To pick up on a thread from Jaybird’s Jimi post, people did not recognize the sounds coming out of Hendrix’s guitar as ‘natural’ either.

          So the fact that Kinkade used light in a way not really plausible in the real world, doesn’t seem to me to have much bearing on the ‘artistic’ quotient – if anything, creating effects never before seen/heard in the real/natural world generally increases, not decreases, respect for an artist’s ability.

          • Glyph says:

            My comment is in the spam filter, can anyone grab it out please?

          • NewDealer says:

            There are times when it matters to be realistic and times when it does not.

            Realism is not a concern for the Impressionists, post-Impressionists, Surrealists, Cubists, and Abstract Expressionists of the world.

            Kinkade is none of these things.

            Kinkade wanted his audience to think the world he was creating was real and possible or at least part of a pastoral past. Most of the elements are rather realistic: How the people and houses look especially. The lighting is not.

            Here is Joan Didion on Kinkade:

            “A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.”


            Anyway it is largely the unearned emotion and mawkish sentimentality that I reject in Kinkade and continue to do so.

          • Glyph says:

            In case it is not clear, I have no real opinion on Kinkade one way or another. But I find the argument interesting.

            Realism is not a concern for the Impressionists, post-Impressionists, Surrealists, Cubists, and Abstract Expressionists of the world….Kinkade is none of these things.

            So the school or ‘genre’ he belongs to is what drives the inherent artistic worth? Seems strange.

            slightly surreal pastels

            Like these?

            If you don’t like them, then they are not for you. And if there are technical abilities which elevate one artist over another (I have no real knowledge of painting) then that could be a valid criteria used to declare one painter ‘better’ than another.

            But I don’t understand how we can declare Monet more ‘artistic’ than Kinkade. That seems entirely subjective, depending on what they were trying to do, and what you get out of it.

    • dhex says:

      “The top of the article mentioned that this target demographic does not generally want to read work that challenges their views and assumptions.”

      this is far, far too true of too many segments of the population. or not? i’m not sure if jesus junk, as it were, is particularly awful or just simply something not meant for me/thee. it’s also a little bit much to presume most audiences want to be challenged/pushed – otherwise liberals would be flocking to white power concerts to get their fix of othered novelty challenges. people don’t do that because leisure time and merzbow are for most of the population two totally different things, and “challenging” is a polite form of “offending”, depending on whose oxen is stabbed.

      fwiw, glyph’s comparison of kinkade and loveless, after the initial screams of good taste have been tasered into submission, makes a lot of sense. both are “fuzzy” or at least hazy. both evoke for their audiences a timeless mythology of a better place, even if that place was worse in reality. there’s nothing wrong with comfort.

      • Glyph says:

        heh. I am glad that it was you, dhex, who both understood what I was getting at, and had the self-control not to immediately slap me through the internet for even daring to make the comparison (“good taste…tasered into submission”, indeed).

        • dhex says:

          well i think those kinds of initial responses should generally be mentally tasered if one is engaging seriously rather than a sports-bar-style good fun “no, you suck!” back and forth about music or art or whatever.

          which is a lot of fun and all, but i think can quickly breed this bizarre sense of superiority based on cultural allegiances when it’s taken too seriously.

          i am much happier being the guy going on about how amazing autechre at a party is not because i want to lord over the fact that i have the gescom minidisc or whatever but because my enthusiasm, my joy, my enrapturement, overshadows any notice that people are slowly backing away.

          though if you have to be a jerk about it, better to be anthony lane than, say, ann coulter.

          • Glyph says:

            my enthusiasm, my joy, my enrapturement, overshadows any notice that people are slowly backing away.

            I did this to poor Mike over at JB’s once. We were talking Beatles and Who, and so I brought up Guided by Voices, who I was fairly obsessed with for quite a while (I’d still rank them top 10, easily).

            By the time I looked up, I had written a treatise.

            Mike doesn’t bring up Beatles or Who anymore around me.

          • dhex says:

            it’s definitely a bit selfish, even if it’s borne from joy.

          • Glyph says:

            It’s so hard though.

            I always think, “Man, I’m really making a great case!” – I really do want this person to share in that joy, and I just know I can convince them to give it a try – but I just can’t see how crazy I am coming across.

          • dhex says:

            well, it’s not a matter of convincing. it’s more like seduction. and not everyone is going to be into loveless, for example. there’s not a lot of “songs” there. there’s songs there, mind you, but no “songs”. that said it’s a lot easier now than it would have been a decade ago because people have gotten stone cold weird about music and the noise quotient has been driven way up.

            oddly enough i only got into loveless because this girl i really, really, really, really liked was really into it. how apropos the title! of course “awkward and hairy-palmed” would have worked just as well. needless to say nothing ever came of that. i learned my lesson later on and didn’t try this again with another girl who was heavily into catherine wheel. ugh.

            so yeah seduction.

      • NewDealer says:

        Good points all around.

        I’ve gotten plenty of flack in more liberal on-line communities for constantly beating the drum of challenging art over stuff like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and Superhero FX spectacles.

        • dhex says:

          well, i mean, it’s hard to sell “challenging” as a value when it comes to leisure time activities. lots of things are challenging. i once watched a woman open her laptop in the back lounge of a brooklyn bar to play the mr. hands* video just because she was annoyed at the other folks in the back area with us. i think she set it to martin denny.

          they were certainly annoying npr type people and maybe in another context they would have appreciated some challenging art. but not that one. there’s challenges and there’s challenges.

          maybe when you think of challenging you think of something that is ultimately “a good time” – even if it’s not more classic good times like summer flings and high fives among friends. it’s pleasurable. or cathartic. sets your mind in motion. others think something more along the lines of the above video. it’s not going to convince people, like joan didion’s witty patter about an artist her audience will never experience as anything other than a symbol of the other, who aren’t already convinced that “challenging” is a better value than “hella explosions” or “wizard school!”

          this doesn’t mean it can’t be done. but i’m pretty sure it can’t be done like that. people mostly hear you calling them losers. that’s a social jockeying thing and largely unfortunate, but it is what it is.

          * if you know what this is, i’m sorry. if you don’t, don’t find out. if you do find out, i warned you. and i’m sorry. i would rather have not known.

          • Glyph says:

            So unlike this, you’d say we don’t?

          • NewDealer says:

            I agree that it is hard to sell challenging as a value.

            7 years of heavy arts and humanities based education (BA and MFA) plus countless hours of self-education have made it hard me to watch things “like a normal person”. There are mainstream movies that I find entertaining and some TV shows but most of it just falls flat. And I’ve never quite understood the concept of passive entertainment. One of the most perplexing things people can say to me is about not wanting to think after a long day at work.

            I just need stuff that often makes me think deeply. Not necessarily always shocking or avant-garde but that is made by adults and for adults. I often dismay that we seemed trapped in a current culture cycle that is pitched at 14 year old boys of all ages and genders and is largely about turning comic books into multi-franchises with high spectacle.

            I am with David Denby and other critics of rue the death of the old arthouse scene and when adults felt a bit of responsibility to find more difficult art instead of sticking with their comfort food as 12-year olds. Also Hollywood made more movies for adults. I am not with the guy at The Atlantic who says film culture is now more fun because there is less of an art house scene.

            I am tired of everything being “Oh Yea! YA” Where are our Joyces, Becketts, Woolfs, Whartons, Ginsbergs, etc?

          • dhex says:

            i find it a little hard to believe that in this day when i can say “i wanna hear some blackened doom sprinkled with deathgrind from the middle of america” and can get said stuff in about ten minutes flat* that there’s somehow fewer avenues for movies that aren’t michaelbayplosioned. i’m not really into the moving visual arts so i can’t really speak to anything other than the rhetoric involved.

            it would seem to me that it would be more fruitful to lay into the hows and whys of the reasons for doing something rather than the reasons for not doing something else. like a slightly edgy version of amazon recommendations, but not totally batshit crazy.

            a culturally-oriented, secularized version of moral language would – i imagine – tend to fall flat because no one is going to see you as a moral force/authority/influence, but rather more like a snotty record store clerk** of sorts. that anxiety is so strong that even if you don’t mean to sound like a dick when enthusing about some cultural artifact, it probably still feels that way to some people – if that makes any sense.

            also surely there’s enough time in peoples’ schedules to read both lolita and harry potter? it needs not be a zero sum game, particularly these days.

            speaking of modern literature, the last movie i saw in the theatre was “away we go” so dave eggars can go fuck himself forever as far as i’m concerned. that’s neither here nor there but when you wrote about “art house” i thought of that movie and now i’m all angry. i’m gonna do some pushups to slayer and try to focus again. sorry.

            * in flac no less! and the flac files play on my phone! and they’re delivered directly to my phone from outer space! for some reason this pleases me more than it should seeing as i mostly listen to said files on said phone outside or on the subway, and on pretty cheap headphones.

            ** i really do think they were largely made up, if only because in the days before high speed pornographic delivery vehicles/worldwide information systems cultural knowledge was often seen as one-upsmanship kind of thing. maybe it was a sitcom/movie thing, where the art dealers from beetlejuice appeared in various incarnations and guises.

    • Kolohe says:

      Though can’t you find the same ahistoricism and whitewashing in just about ever Renaissance depiction of a Biblical or Greco-Roman myth scene?

  4. NewDealer says:

    The above is a good Pre-Raphealite painting because it expresses Truth. Here are the reasons

    1. The setting is contemporary.

    2. The subject matter exposes the hypocrisy of Victorian society when it came to affection and sexuality. A young woman was sitting on her lover’s lap and becomes ashamed when another person walks into the room. Hunt is telling us that there was nothing wrong with the prior pose of the young couple except society deemed it so. He was asking his original audience to think about why should the young woman be ashamed.

    Contrast this with the mythic Middle Ages Imperialist propaganda of above.

    • Burt Likko says:

      I don’t know that I agree with characterizing the style of the painting as pre-Raphael. I agree with the interpretation of the subject matter.

      • NewDealer says:

        The painter of the above painting is William Hunt. He is considered one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

        He uses the same technique in the above painting as he does in his more pastoral, middle ages fantasy paintings.

        • Burt Likko says:

          I see now. Thanks for the link. The name of this school was confusing to me as I’d not heard of it, but seemed very counterintuitive — Raphael died in the early sixteenth century, so how could a Victorian-era painter precede him? And the painting certainly didn’t look very Manneristic. So my quibble is with these nineteenth-century guys giving themselves a confusing name, not with your (I can see now) correct use of the name they gave themselves.

  5. Burt Likko says:

    Some art gives me pleasure. Some art provokes thought or emotion from which I grow and profit.

    This is sufficient reason, for me, to participate in art.

  6. BlaiseP says:

    The artist goes out like a shrimp boat. He hauls in his trawl nets, spilling his catch onto the deck. The artist is shaped by his world. Filtered through his own consciousness, he produces art from what his nets have caught.

    Ultimately, the artist must turn loose of his creation. Thereafter, the piece of art must communicate with others. The artist’s job is done: he returns to the sea to trawl again, producing more art.

    Can art be truthful? I suppose if the piece correctly conveys the artist’s vision, we might say it’s truthful. Socialist Realism wasn’t truthful because it didn’t convey the truth of the world. Orwell once said in 1984: “All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.” The artist who takes commissions knows his clients don’t necessarily want the truth.

    Picasso refused to admit any difference between representational and non-representational art. We see the world in the shape of forms. No thought is so abstract that it cannot be seen as forms. It’s up to us to see them as they are.

  7. Chris says:

    Out of curiosity, have you read Goodman’s Ways of Worldmaking?

  8. Rtod says:

    I am a big believer in the transcendental nature of art. As such, I think that it can be relevant for its own sake, and that as such and still be connected to truth.

  9. Stillwater says:

    I’m totally down with art for art’s sake as an individual prerogative. If someone has the artistic impulse, have at it. Do the work, sweat out the masterpiece, get that vision into the world. But don’t then try to tell me that your creation is an ineffable work of genius followed by 500 words describing why it’s actually effable. Usually it’s obvious.

    I think there’s an ambiguity in the phrase “art for art’s sake”. Taken to one logical limit, it’s solipsism in the realm of personal expression. On the other, tho, I don’t think art needs to get at anything near the truth to be art, or considered useful. Or be viewed as a worthwhile pursuit. Most people who become “artists” do so intentionally, and that’s fine. Lots of other people with real talent find themselves the subject of much praise and adulation, and only reluctantly embrace the moniker of “the artist”.

  10. LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

    Art is a tool we use to experience those things that are sacred.

    Visual arts, of the sort we are talking about here, use beauty as a way of circumventing language and reaching us on a level we can’t verbalize.

    I think its better to think of art not as being either “good” or “bad”, but ueseful or nonuseful in providing us with that experience.

    • NewDealer says:

      What about when art is used to challenge or attack what is held sacred?

      Or are you simply arguing that Andre Serras holds blasphemy as something sacred?

      • dhex says:

        what about slayer?

      • Stillwater says:

        What about when art is used to challenge or attack what is held sacred?

        Wouldn’t that be a case where the artist holds something else sacred? He’s not attacking what’s sacred, but conventional wisdom. The “sacred”.

        That’s totally cool, yes?

      • Tom Van Dyke says:

        Who says it’s art?

      • LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

        What about it? Art can provide us with an experience of the sacred even while challenging it.
        Consider the work of Ray Cesar-

        His paintings are disturbing, yet beautiful, and all because they challenge us with beauty and disturbing references.

        I find most (not all) abstract art to be boring and didactic- it turns the visual into the linguistic. most art that gets into galleries can’t speak to anything other than a tiny salon of acolytes which is just unfortunate.

        • Stillwater says:

          But that, it seems to me, is the central issue being discussed. What is art? For lots of people, it’s what moves them. In whatever myriad inexplicable way. For the literati, it’s so much more than that. And I’m not convinced they know what the f*** they’re talking about.

          Art is expression. It’s interactive. It’s experiential. It’s a two part harmony.

          No one knows in advance of where we’re at right now what constitutes art.

          • LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

            The contemporary art Estalbishment- meaning the community of academics, galleries, dealers, critics and artists- wants to have the status and respect that comes with revealing the sole universal Truth, while practicing the multiple veiwpoints of postmodernism.

            If art is whatever one points at, or hangs in a gallery, then it loses its claim to special status.

            What makes a gallery painting more valuable than a commercial illustration? A sculpture more valuable than a urinal?

            These are the questions that Duchamp and Warhol asked of the Establishment, and were ignored with fame and celebrity.

            The conventional wisdom given out in college art classes is that the viewer creates the meaning in art, and the authors viewpoint is merely one.

            Yet next to each and every artwork in any gallery anywhere, is a small card, that explains to the viewer what It All Means.

            I have a perverse fantasy about breaking into an art gallery and switching all the cards around to see if anyone notices. Let the viewer make their own interpretation, my ass.

          • Glyph says:

            This is by no means an original observation, but for many, ‘Art’, as experienced in museums, is their equivalent of religious services (please, walk slowly, talk quietly, show some respect, contemplate what It All Means).

            Which may go some way towards explaining why ‘Art’ and ‘Religion’ find themselves so often in conflict – they are essentially competitors for souls and “butts in pews”.

          • LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

            Art depends on religion- broadly defined as a faith in transcendent meaning.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Geez but you’re on a roll in this thread, LWA. Killer stuff–the transcendent/sacred, and I esp agree about turning “the visual into the linguistic.*” Art shouldn’t have to come with an instruction book. My favorite xmple is Mike Angelo’s Pieta–you don’t have to know it’s Jesus and Mary to be moved.


            *There was a fight about the Nude Descending a Staircase’s self-caption:


            “With its sickly palette of ocher and brown, the picture is not easy to love. There is something robotic or inhuman about the nude, and it’s unclear how much of this quality is intentional and how much is due to the imperfect skills of the artist, who, by his own admission, was a rather mediocre painter. The result tends to make your eyes cross, even before you’ve seen the title, which runs along the lower edge like the caption of a cartoon: “Nu Descendant un Escalier.”

            In a way, it was the title that caused all the trouble. At the time, Duchamp was living in the shadow of his two older brothers, both respected artists in Paris. Only a few years earlier, Picasso and Braque had produced the first major works of Cubism, a movement that had been quickly taken up by painters of a more political persuasion, who envisioned it as a socially conscious art form.

            It isn’t surprising, then, that they reacted so unfavorably to “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Duchamp’s study of the body in motion smacked of the rival Futurists, and the title only made matters worse. A serious Cubist didn’t paint nudes, and even if he did, the model wasn’t supposed to get up and walk, let alone go downstairs. The fact that the title was painted on the canvas itself only contributed to their suspicion — perhaps not unfounded — that the artist was making fun of them.

            In the end, the hanging committee at the Salon rejected the painting, and Duchamp’s brothers were ordered to break the news. At his studio, they presented him with two options: He could either paint over the title and call it something else, or withdraw it from the show altogether. In response, he took it home. Years later, he would say: “It was a real turning point in my life…. I saw that I would never be much interested in groups after that.”

          • Jaybird says:

            Friggin’ Duchamp. Ruined everything.

  11. GordonHide says:

    I have to confess to being the Philistine’s Philistine when it comes to art and music. My enjoyment is usually linked to nostalgia in the same way that you might enjoy some food that brings back childhood memories.

    I think art is subjective and has a large emotional content. I think it the enemy of objective truth about the real world although it may provide some difficult to analyse insight into human nature.

  12. Abi says:

    I love arts of all sorts because it brings more depth and joy to my life on a daily basis. It makes me think about what the artist was thinking and what inspired them. Art is cerebral – that’s why I love it!

    I hope that it has the same impact on others..

  13. Murali says:

    I don’t think art is any one thing. Some art is about conveying particular insights. Some art is about the artist’s exploration of design elements. Some art is just about painting or sculpting a thing that people will want to put up on a wall. Some art is meant to shock. Some art is meant to pioneer ne techniques. Some art is just about pretty pictures we like to look at (but maybe not put on a wall) Some art is religious and some art is just family portraits. It is pigeonholing art as definitely one thing or another that seems particularly problematic to me. I think that the things we call art more have a family resemblance* with one another than actually share one single common trait.

    *If you look at photos of big extended families, you can tell that they are all part of the family not because they all share any single common trait, but because they all share some features with some others and it is this multiply overlapping sharedness that allows us to identify that group as related.

  14. MikeSchilling says:

    I have to go with the expert:

    Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh… Now you tell me what you know.