WHAT IS ART?

By Patricia Riascos
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I think about this all the time.

Understanding art is not easy; it is a language on its own just like music. Usually you hear a popular song and sometimes you have to listen to it several times until it starts to “grow” on you. Then, if you are more serious into music, you are able to understand complicated pieces of classical, or jazz works, or more contemporary and challenging music, like electronic or rap.

Art is no different. I have tried to keep an open mind towards art that can be complicated or difficult for me to like it; but first I have to be able to understand it. Before that consideration, there are two main issues that I have to resolve in my own mind. Does art have to be pretty? This is a big question for me because I have come across art in the past that is depressing or not the typical “every day” kind of art; sometimes from people that are suffering from a terminal illness, or have gone through terrible situations and stress. Art is a way of communicating, a channel, that some people choose to show their feelings.

I have fought internally about the concepts of pleasant and uplifting art versus the art that just shows my state of mind at the moment. If one wants to be an artist real and honest, then not all the art will be pretty. Or I should say, at least not constantly brilliant and colorful, but it will be beautiful and honest in its own terms.

I came across the artist Marina Abramovic who is a performing artist. Hers is a category of artistic composition that I have never really bothered learning about, but lately I decided to look into it and I can say now that I understand the intensity and passion behind the performances. Still not an art form that I am totally comfortable with, but I have developed more of an objective opinion about it. The following is a written excerpt that I found on line as I researched Marina’s performances:

In one of her groundbreaking works, Marina Abramović positions herself right in front of the camera, addressing the viewers directly. The image reveals only her face and hands, concentrating her corporeality in these two elements. She continually repeats an action regarded as typically feminine, reinterpreting it in the context of art history through her performance: The artist combs her hair forcefully, without a pause, for more than 50 minutes. During this time, she repeats the sentence “art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful” like a mantra. The constant repetition
of the words and the action give the work a sustained intensity that puts the artist and the audience into a trance-like state, in which overcoming the physical pain frees the body and mind from the conventions of Western society and culture.

This is just an example of a different form of art. I hope you are able to discover new artists that open your eyes to new ways to look at and appreciate art!

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