A Stretch of the Imagination

What does the term “art” really mean?...

blog4With so many objects, actions and experiences falling under that ever-expanding category, what is the unifying factor that relates them all? What makes “good” art stand out from “bad” art?

These are difficult questions that must be answered if one is to appreciate any kind of art. Having studied art history throughout the university and travelled to most of the great galleries and museums of the world, I have come to appreciate that art has been around ever since our cave-man beginnings, is often misunderstood, and is valued differently by everyone who views it.

Creating objects from our imagination is unique to humans, and for thousands of years, we have expressed our ideas in or on things we have made with our hands. From ancient symbols of belief to contemporary motion pictures or even conceptual art, the human desire and ability to make use of our imagination has always been present. Fortunately for us, a trail of artifacts exists which illustrate our changing beliefs throughout history. Art has been essential for humans since the very beginning, and by studying it, we study the minds and beliefs of those who created it.

However, not all that is produced from the imagination is art. Good art possesses a spark that ignites the mind in a viral kind of way. It communicates a passion or an energy that goes way beyond the object itself; it makes you think and use your own imagination. Mass produced objects made strictly for utilitarian purposes, such as shovels or toothbrushes, don’t possess this quality. They are made strictly to fulfill a need, not to passionately express an idea.

Art then must be an idea or object that is created to convey a meaning beyond itself. By this definition, art is technically a “stretch of the imagination”, where a passion is translated into an idea and then into an object of some sort. By observing the object, we feel the passion that went into its creation and it excites our own imagination. It “puts out” just by observing it, and in doing so enriches the lives of those who allow it to.