“Death of Marat”


“Death of Marat” – Jacques-Louis David

Several folks responded to my blog post about Easter egg art, through my personal email. One of the responses mentioned used the word value, art’s value. I asked myself just what is art’s value to our culture? As we build art’s foundations through education and art classes, in the end when art is in an adult arena, what is the value of art then? Some professional artists seek to explore and perhaps expand the techniques they learned earlier. Mixing colors, enriching their understandings of perspectives, and realistic representations of objects, forms and scapes. The content of their work often remains similar to what artists before them have done. I think of the David portrait of a Marat in a tub. The content of this work was social commentary. The technique of painting is continued today by many painters not only in portraits but also scapes.

Then there are some professional artists seek to maintain the innocence and freedom of art that they had when they were learning about art and building their own foundation and understanding of what art is. The exploring, and discovery of putting different concepts, contexts, and content together. Making their lines and forms not necessarily the reality that they are including how these concepts, contexts and contents are experienced, sensed.

Is one form of art valued over the other? I don’t think so. If they aren’t does that mean that art can be both representational and non representational? Yes. Does that in turn mean that art can be anything and everything? No. So how do we know if a work is art? By how it’s valued? Who is doing the valuing? A decorator, a curator, the artist, a lover of art? All experience art in a very personal way, a very different way? All value art differently.

When we speak of value are we speaking of good and bad art? If art is bad does that not make it art? No it is still art. So what is art? And this is were the dilemma lies, just what are the values of art?
Perhaps one of the values of art is the freedom it allows all who create and appreciate it? So perhaps the notion of freedom should be explored when we discuss art. If I return to the example of David’s portrait of Marat, where is the freedom there. I can think of one immediately, artists just didn’t paint revolutionary dead men in a bathtub during that time in history. It was a bold move, a move that freed artists to think differently about their subject matter.

Where freedom lies in valuing art can be explored through, content, concept and context. If it doesn’t exist I would suggest that the value of the work is merely repeating what others have done and hasn’t quite reached the penetration and depth of freedom that an artist and viewer experience when looking at a work that allows them. They should ask about the work does it allow me to fly freely in it through it and around it. The value of art and in turn definition of art should perhaps lie in the depth and power of freedom experienced in it and from it. I venture to say that one work can produce that experience in many artists and viewers. So would that make one work art and another not? That is a good question.

Does that not return us to art can be anything and everything, and there is nothing objective to say and value in art? The notion of freedom can be objective as well as illusive. Webster defines it as follows: 1 : the quality or state of being free: such as. a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence. c : the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous freedom from care.
Could these not be objective goals to define the value of art and what art is?