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chrismo

Art and Competition

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Before I try to offer up a half-arsed rant about having competitive awards for art, anyone have any reads they could point me to?

I'm curious to understand your rationale, Chris. I can't point you to any articles, but I certainly believe that all art is not created equal, and that one makes value judgments all the time on its merits or lack thereof. It seems to me, then, that some element of competition comes with the territory.

Or am I misunderstanding your premise?

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I think there's value in judging a work in and of itself. I can't think of any benefit a competition brings to art that couldn't come about without the competitive element -- but I do think there's potential for harm.

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I think there's value in judging a work in and of itself. I can't think of any benefit a competition brings to art that couldn't come about without the competitive element -- but I do think there's potential for harm.

I think there's potential for harm as well. Artists tend to be a sensitive lot, and I'm sure that any form of rejection (which could mean anything short of winning a competition) could be a blow to the ego. And certainly that can have negative ramifications.

But any time an artist launches a work of art out into the public sphere then the competitive element enters in. I don't know how to avoid it. I review record albums. And that's very much a competition. And part of my job is to communicate which albums are worth buying, and why. There are winners and losers in that competition, whether you couch it in terms of 5-star vs. 1-star reviews, or simply write "This is a great album" or "This is a terrible album." The competitive judgments come with the territory.

I really don't think there's any way to escape it. I have a friend who's a painter. She displays her works in local galleries fairly frequently. I don't think she's a very good painter, and, for whatever reasons, no one buys her paintings. Is that a competition? Not directly, but it seems to me that one reasonable interpretation of the value of art is that at least somebody other than the artist should find it worthwhile and desirable. She's in a juried show where the jury consists of that segment of the population in Columbus, Ohio that buys original works of art.

The competitive element is everywhere. The only alternative is to maintain one's private vision and keep one's art to oneself. And I don't see that as being a particularly effective solution to the problem.

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But any time an artist launches a work of art out into the public sphere then the competitive element enters in. I don't know how to avoid it. I review record albums. And that's very much a competition. And part of my job is to communicate which albums are worth buying, and why. There are winners and losers in that competition, whether you couch it in terms of 5-star vs. 1-star reviews, or simply write "This is a great album" or "This is a terrible album." The competitive judgments come with the territory.

Which albums are worth buying according to you or according to the intrinsic value of the work itself? I think it can be edifying to share our own experiences with a work, but I think it's much more difficult to attempt to qualify a work in an absolute context. I believe in absolutes, but the value of a piece can vary from person to person. You wrote the following recently in your blog in a short review:

It's all good. It's all fine from a moral standpoint. And it's all about as interesting and innovative as that $1.75 card you bought for your mother-in-law when you forgot her birthday.

Interest to me seems more a personal thing - innovation may be more objective, but pieces can have other valuable attributes.

[snip] ... it seems to me that one reasonable interpretation of the value of art is that at least somebody other than the artist should find it worthwhile and desirable.

Popularity is another attribute, but I don't think a primary one to a work's value. I think an artist should get that sort of feedback about their work, to better understand how (or if) their work communicates with their audience (I've a great C.S. Lewis quote on this, I'll rummage it up later). ... I'm sensing more unthought thoughts in my brain on this point ... but I need to wrap up for now.

The competitive element is everywhere.

You have taken this in a new direction for my brain -- I was originally concerned with explicit competitions (Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, etc.) -- but I don't think I agree with you.

Still - I'd like to spend more time replying but I need to feed the tots - so, I'll come back to this later. Thx for jumping in :-)

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[snip] ... it seems to me that one reasonable interpretation of the value of art is that at least somebody other than the artist should find it worthwhile and desirable.

I once had lunch with a man who was finishing up his philosophy p.h.d., who was very interested in the arts. And he said something that seems to challenge the above statement. He suggested that a work of art can be glorifying to God even if no one but the artist ever sees it.

At the time this was a new, and somewhat thrilling, idea. Note that, as I remember, he didn't say that it would have value if not one else ever laid eyes or ears on it, but the potential is real that God could be glorified by 1) the act of creating and 2) the product.

To my recollection competitions are not spoken of negatively in Scripture. What comes to mind, in fact, art the analogies in the pauline epistles of running the race. A race implies more than one person, does it not? A competition.

I've always revelled, personally, in critiques and competition. Though I have a different personality

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I once had lunch with a man who was finishing up his philosophy p.h.d., who was very interested in the arts. And he said something that seems to challenge the above statement. He suggested that a work of art can be glorifying to God even if no one but the artist ever sees it.

At the time this was a new, and somewhat thrilling, idea. Note that, as I remember, he didn't say that it would have value if not one else ever laid eyes or ears on it, but the potential is real that God could be glorified by 1) the act of creating and 2) the product.

(snip)

I think this is true. But I think it's worthwhile to distinguish between the creation of art and the appreciation of art. I believe that there is tremendous value in the creative process, in and of itself. And I'm sure that anyone who creates art of any kind understands this. I write for my living, or at least part of it. And there are times when I've written something and I've known that I've nailed it, absolutely done the best I can do, and that the words are dancing. The key fits the lock, and I'm sure at those moments that I am worshipping God as much as anyone in a church service. I am doing exactly what I am called to do, and I believe that God is honored through that process, and there is that sense of communion that Eric Liddel expressed in Chariots of Fire: "When I run (or, in my case, when I write), I feel His pleasure." This is very real, and it happens because of art, and I would never deny that it is important and meaningful.

But .,.. I also believe that great art connects in deep ways with other people, and that if your art connects with no one, then it's probably because it's not very good. The greatest paintings, novels, films, songs, what have you, invariably produce those "Aha!" moments where we realize that the artist has captured something that we've always understood subconsciously or inarticulately, and that he or she has given voice and vision and substance to previously unformed beauty and wonder. Note that I certainly don't believe that the bigger the audience, the greater the work of art. But there ought to be an audience. Art is all about making connections, And if the connections aren't being made, then it may be the fault of an obtuse public, or an indifferent agent or promoter, or a thousand other things. But it's usually because the art isn't very good. I assume that that's usually a good place to start, and part of my job, when I review works of art that others have created, is to communicate whether the proposed work does, or does not, connect.

To quote one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace:

"...Look man, we'd probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it'd find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it."

That's the connection I'm looking for. When I review, I review as an audience of one. But I ask myself two questions: 1) Does this connect with me? 2) Is it likely to connect with others? If the answer to both questions is "No," then it's highly unlikely that I'll offer a positive review.

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Thx for reviving the thread I started - good to get my head back in it. It (my head) is still foggy at the moment, but I did want to cherry pick a low hanger for me...

I remember a conversation with my wife a few years back that began with my questioning the validity of the Dove Awards for Christian Music, as they were being mentioned on the radio. Her reply, as I recall, was that it spurred the musicians on to better craft.

I hate this reason. I'm not ever compelled to write something because I may win some sort of competition. I say I can get all the spurring I need from my relationship with God and the community of Church without the glitzy prizes. Most of the reasons I've heard thrown out for something like the Dove Awards are good reasons, but are totally obtainable without competition. It'd be like saying, "I have some great conversations with my friends when we get together at the strip club."

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I think this is true. But I think it's worthwhile to distinguish between the creation of art and the appreciation of art. I believe that there is tremendous value in the creative process, in and of itself. ... I'm sure at those moments that I am worshipping God as much as anyone in a church service. ... This is very real, and it happens because of art, and I would never deny that it is important and meaningful.

(snip)

... part of my job, when I review works of art that others have created, is to communicate whether the proposed work does, or does not, connect.

Maybe this is where I get lost with many critics and awards deals -- that they see it as understood they are limiting their critique to the value of the art to connect to others, and not speaking to the value of the art between the artist and God and the artist and those few who do connect with it.

I have a hard time seeing these qualifications when the language used seems to speak absolutely.

I may create a work that expresses my joy of realizing some of the depth of my salvation, and have it be a very un-novel expression that doesn't connect much with anyone because it's bland and cliche and out of tune; something easily critiqued as "bad art". Something as crummy as the crayon drawings by my children over the computer monitor. But I love those, and they hold much value.

I realize there's a desire (in my mind as well) to draw a big line between the crayon sketches and Michelangelo -- of course we'd never call the crayon sketches 'bad' - that's between you and your child, and besides, no one's even considering it as art ... but where on the continuum do we draw the line? Does it benefit us to try and draw the line?

I've no issue with a critic who simply shares his experiences with certain works, so that if I find I'm of a similar heart than a certain critic, I can have access to additional works that speak to me that I may miss, or learn of new depths in the works I thought I knew. Going that extra step into "bad" and "good" and "best", "you win" "you lose" -- I think I always want it qualified.

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I hate this reason. I'm not ever compelled to write something because I may win some sort of competition. I say I can get all the spurring I need from my relationship with God and the community of Church without the glitzy prizes. Most of the reasons I've heard thrown out for something like the Dove Awards are good reasons, but are totally obtainable without competition. It'd be like saying, "I have some great conversations with my friends when we get together at the strip club."

And as I mentioned, IMHO this hasn't worked for most of CCM. Or any pop music. And I concur wholeheartedly: I won't ever make a sculpture for any award. (And as a side note, the only award I'd be interested it is cold, hard cash. Trophies and such will go in the attic, at best).

Will have to reply to the rest later . . . my mind has left me for today.

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FWIW, I'm involved in some art competitions over on another forum. What competition brings to me is: 1. a deadline, 2. a helpful motivation, and 3. a challenging theme.

1. I have several pieces sitting on my drawing board that I have been working on for (literally) years. I get to them when I can get to them, but usually don't. But art competition gets me in there, drawing, and trying to get something together in time for the deadline. It's very helpful to me.

2. I find competition to be stimulating. I used to be a competetive swimmer, and one thing was always true - the meets always brought out your best performance. When I know my artwork is going to be judged up against someone else's work - especially someone whose work I admire, it challenges me to bring my "A" game.

3. The art competitions that I am part of are challenges along some theme. This has been stimulating, helping me to think creatively in directions I may not otherwise have thought. I've been very pleased with the results.

I don't personally believe that competition is a bad thing. I don't think it is a result of the Fall of humanity. It's either creational or redemptive, though it is certainly touched (mangled, corrupted) by the Fall, as are all things. But competition can serve a good purpose.

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I think this is true. But I think it's worthwhile to distinguish between the creation of art and the appreciation of art. I believe that there is tremendous value in the creative process, in and of itself. ... I'm sure at those moments that I am worshipping God as much as anyone in a church service. ... This is very real, and it happens because of art, and I would never deny that it is important and meaningful.

(snip)

... part of my job, when I review works of art that others have created, is to communicate whether the proposed work does, or does not, connect.

Maybe this is where I get lost with many critics and awards deals -- that they see it as understood they are limiting their critique to the value of the art to connect to others, and not speaking to the value of the art between the artist and God and the artist and those few who do connect with it.

But critics are in no position to speak about the value of the art between the artist and God. It's unknown and unknowable. For the artist (or at least the Christian artist; there are plenty of artists who don't think in these terms at all) it's supremely important. But at some point artists finish their work, they glean whatever they can from the creative process and ideally grow closer to God because of the experience, and then put it out there for their audience to appreciate (or not). And at that point the idea of connection enters the discussion.

As far as "those few who do connect with it," there's no accounting for taste. Critics often do make absolute statements. But that's only because "in my opinion" is assumed to be prepended to every sentence in a review, and all the "in my opinions," if spelled out, would severely cut in to a reviewer's precious word counts. I have a good friend who loves Christian heavy metal. This is one of the great mysteries of the universe to me, up there with the nature of the Trinity and the ongoing popularity of Britney Spears. First, it's heavy metal, a cartoonish musical genre given over to bellowing and chest thumping and other Neanderthal activities. Second, it's Christian heavy metal, which means that the Neanderthals bellow Hallmark Card cliches usually found on posters with puppies and kitties. Why would anyone even bother with this? I don't know. But my friend, an otherwise sane, intelligent, compassionate, non-Neanderal, loves the stuff.

There's no accounting for taste. So I make it a point not to review heavy metal albums when I review music. It would be a disservice to the music, because there are obviously people out there who connect with it in ways that I don't. Ideally a reviewer and his or her audience are in sync. And if a reviewer knows his or her audience, and can assume a degree of knowledge and familiarity when he or she makes comparisons to similar works of art in a review, then the task is relatively easy.

I have a hard time seeing these qualifications when the language used seems to speak absolutely.

I may create a work that expresses my joy of realizing some of the depth of my salvation, and have it be a very un-novel expression that doesn't connect much with anyone because it's bland and cliche and out of tune; something easily critiqued as "bad art". Something as crummy as the crayon drawings by my children over the computer monitor. But I love those, and they hold much value.

I realize there's a desire (in my mind as well) to draw a big line between the crayon sketches and Michelangelo -- of course we'd never call the crayon sketches 'bad' - that's between you and your child, and besides, no one's even considering it as art ... but where on the continuum do we draw the line? Does it benefit us to try and draw the line?

I've no issue with a critic who simply shares his experiences with certain works, so that if I find I'm of a similar heart than a certain critic, I can have access to additional works that speak to me that I may miss, or learn of new depths in the works I thought I knew. Going that extra step into "bad" and "good" and "best", "you win" "you lose" -- I think I always want it qualified.

A reviewer who simply used words like "bad" and "good" wouldn't be a very good reviewer, and such terms would be almost meaningless. But I don't know any reviewers who write that way.

Reviews typically involve comparisons. The reviewer identifies one or more (ideally more) works similar to the one being reviewed, and places the current work on a continuum ranging between "worst similar work" and "best similar work." Is there a subjective component to this? Sure. But it provides the readers of the review with some context. The readers, of course, are free to agree or disagree with the comparisons. If, for example, an album reviewer states "This album sounds a lot like Radiohead, and Radiohead is great," and you as the reader happen to dislike Radiohead, then you've now received enough clues to help you determine that you probably don't want to buy this album. But that doesn't make it a bad review. It just means that you disagree with the reviewer. In fact, the reviewer has provided the kind of information you need to make an informed decision about the album in question.

I just wrote a review of an album by a French band called Syd Matters. Syd Matters makes mopey folktronica -- acoustic fingerpicking and morose songwriting interspersed with ersatz strings from the synthesizer and spaceship blips and beeps. I listened to the album. I asked myself, "Do I know other musicians/bands who make music similar to this?" Sure enough, I do. Beth Orton. Beck on Mutations and Sea Change. Some early Radiohead songs. So I compared certain songs on the Syd Matters album to certain songs on those albums. Some of them compared favorably, and I said that. Some of them involved watching fairies dance in gardens, and I groaned at the unbearable tweeness of it all, so I said that. The end result, as you might expect, was a mixed review. Three stars out of five, to state it in shorthand. But that's the process I went through. It's not the absolute, categorical last word on Syd Matters. It's just my take on the album. But I'd like to think that there's value in that for those who have heard of the band, and are considering whether to buy the album.

Don't get hung up on the "absolutes" of reviews. Reviewers are paid to state opinions, and opinions often come off as dogmatic. It's up to you, as the reader, to determine whether you think the opinions are informed or not. I've been reading reviews in general, and music reviews in particular, for decades now. There are certain reviewers I've grown to trust over time. They've rarely steered me wrong, and thus I'm inclined to believe them when they state that a particular album is good or bad. Other reviewers (and, indeed, entire publications) strike me as fundamentally misguided, and I tend to ignore them. I'd just encourage you to create art, enjoy the creative process, draw closer to God through it, and seek out other works of art from people you respect and trust. It's really not any more complicated than that.

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But .,.. I also believe that great art connects in deep ways with other people, and that if your art connects with no one, then it's probably because it's not very good. The greatest paintings, novels, films, songs, what have you, invariably produce those "Aha!" moments where we realize that the artist has captured something that we've always understood subconsciously or inarticulately, and that he or she has given voice and vision and substance to previously unformed beauty and wonder.

Hmm. This is no easy consideration.

Art at its best always invites us to see things in fresh ways and is able to move us to the truth about things. (From Redeeming the Arts)

When I was in college, the best definition we came up with for "Art" in our classes was "intent." That is, if a person intends to create a work of art, it is art. I mulled over that for a couple of years. I never conceded to the idea completely, but hadn't come up with anything better.

Artists see what is real, and imagine what is possible.

I have come to see that intrinsic in art is communication, as you have noted, whether the artist intends it or not. I agree that if art is not communicating with anyone, there is a problem. (Although I might vote for the "obtuse public" in a fair number of instances.)

But I also belive that — and this is a recent revelation for me — imagination is an absolutely necessary component as well.

Competitions can offer us the opportunity to garner inspiration and embolden imagination. But we don't need competitions to do this. Galleries can do the same, as could a local artist guild getting together to bounce ideas off of each other.

I don't personally believe that competition is a bad thing. I don't think it is a result of the Fall of humanity. It's either creational or redemptive, though it is certainly touched (mangled, corrupted) by the Fall, as are all things. But competition can serve a good purpose.

This is what I was getting at when I talked about competition as mentioned in the epistles. I don't know how, but competition seems to be part of humanity. Pride, hurt feelings and the like that can sometimes result from competition are certainly a result of the Fall.

Edited by Chashab

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When I was in college, the best definition we came up with for "Art" in our classes was "intent." That is, if a person intends to create a work of art, it is art. I mulled over that for a couple of years. I never conceded to the idea completely, but hadn't come up with anything better.

[snip!]

I have come to see that intrinsic in art is communication, as you have noted, whether the artist intends it or not. I agree that if art is not communicating with anyone, there is a problem. (Although I might vote for the "obtuse public" in a fair number of instances.)

You seem to me to have come up with a better definition for art than "intent" right there - "imaginative communication." Perhaps I latch on to that because it is similar to my definition for art (see my paper, A Thousand Tongues (pdf format) for more on my view of art), but I think it's a good one. Art IS communication. That's what art is and does. But it's a kind of communication that goes beyond strict 1:1 correspondence between message and method. I'd be interested to hear what you think of my analysis of art in that paper.

I don't personally believe that competition is a bad thing. I don't think it is a result of the Fall of humanity. It's either creational or redemptive, though it is certainly touched (mangled, corrupted) by the Fall, as are all things. But competition can serve a good purpose.

This is what I was getting at when I talked about competition as mentioned in the epistles. I don't know how, but competition seems to be part of humanity. Pride, hurt feelings and the like that can sometimes result from competition are certainly a result of the Fall.

Yep - there's a difference between something being bad (i.e. "fallen" in its essence) and something being able to be used badly (i.e. "creational/redemptional" in its essence, but in the hands of fallen people). Competition, like art itself, seems to me to be a good that is often used badly.

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You seem to me to have come up with a better definition for art than "intent" right there - "imaginative communication." Perhaps I latch on to that because it is similar to my definition for art (see my paper, A Thousand Tongues (pdf format) for more on my view of art), but I think it's a good one. Art IS communication. That's what art is and does. But it's a kind of communication that goes beyond strict 1:1 correspondence between message and method. I'd be interested to hear what you think of my analysis of art in that paper.

I'll read your paper when I can. I've already printed it out . . .

Imaginative communication; yes. That is much more clear and close to spot on than "intent." Dare I say that may be good enough to define art

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Imaginative communication; yes. That is much more clear and close to spot on than "intent." Dare I say that may be good enough to define art

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My only problem with defining art as communication of any kind is that sounds so utilitarian, not far removed from saying art should involve an alter call or depict three crosses on a hill.

Looking at God's creative work, it is good simply because it is. A rose doesn't communicate beauty it simply is beautiful. Can art communicate? Yes and often does, but not always. Van Gogh's Sunflowers or Irises, are they art because they communicate or only because they communicate?

I do agree that art is something, but what I'm still not sure. It is _about_ something more than it is. The Mona Lisa is more than a protrait. The Sunflowers are more than a still life of yellow flowers.

And if art is communication your friends are in their right to ask "what is it", because if it communicates then they aren't getting the communication and want help. On the other hand if art isn't put in the position of needing to communicate you are right and there is no need to ask "what is it".

I meant to imply that "imaganitive communication" was probably too simple a definition for "Art." Perhaps I wan't strong enough in saying that . . . although I would contend that (in the ignorance of this burgeoning idea in my mind) even parts of Creation like roses communicate to us; they communicate parts of God's nature, character, holiness and so on (though we must work to separate the fallen nature of all creation to receive an accurate).

Tying this back to competition, Would Van Gogh win anything today?

Valid question. But not sure I can answer it. Probably depends on where he was competing — as it would for any artist — and who was jurying. Obviously, the same question could be asked of any artist of historical significance. It makes me think of the the Salon in Paris; and, as I recollect, the difficulty the impressionists had exhibiting there in the early part of their movement (I hope my history is mostly accurate; it's been a long time, sadly.).

Edited by Chashab

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And you're very correct in pointing out that art is not a 1:1 correspondance. However, this is what many people expect. Friends who know I'm an artist will look at my sculpture and say

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I don't personally believe that competition is a bad thing. I don't think it is a result of the Fall of humanity. It's either creational or redemptive, though it is certainly touched (mangled, corrupted) by the Fall, as are all things. But competition can serve a good purpose.

Thanks for sharing this -- makes me wonder if there's more to my hangup than just good intentions :-)

Don't get hung up on the "absolutes" of reviews. Reviewers are paid to state opinions, and opinions often come off as dogmatic.

Thanks for this -- I think I agree with your post here (which may prove me a hypocrite, I've not re-read my prior posts recently). Though I'd say if an opinion is coming off as dogmatic, then it needs to be re-written to sound like an opinion. ... (My, how snotty of me, eh? :-)

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My only problem with defining art as communication of any kind is that sounds so utilitarian, not far removed from saying art should involve an alter call or depict three crosses on a hill.

Looking at God's creative work, it is good simply because it is. A rose doesn't communicate beauty it simply is beautiful. Can art communicate? Yes and often does, but not always. Van Gogh's Sunflowers or Irises, are they art because they communicate or only because they communicate?

That last quoted sentence doesn't make sense - did you mean, "...because they are, or only because they communicate?"? Van Gogh's Sunflowers are art because they are imaginative communication of some sort. I'd be cautious about slapping a "utilitarianism" label on the definition until you've first picked it through for a while. You're used to the "art should involve an altar call" problem, and I think you're reacting to that rather than hearing my argument. I'm arguing that art is a MEANS, a VEHICLE for communication. Are words good simply because they are? Or do they gain their value from their purpose? I class art in the same category as words. I don't believe art is good simply in and of itself. I don't see that as utilitarianism, I see it as teleological. Communication can be evangelistic, true - but it is not necessarily so. Communication can also be descriptive, or argumentative, or any of a whole host of other things. "Art should have an altar call" suffers from the save problem as "all conversations should end in a call to salvation" - it is reductionistic. I don't think that saying "art is imaginative communication" is reductionistic. I think that it includes everything that art is, and excludes everything that art is not. In essence, I think it's descriptive. Of course, it's my definition, so I guess you'd expect I'd say that... :)

Oh - and a rose IS just beautiful. But a rose isn't art. Just as not all art is beautiful, not all that is beautiful is art.

I've been thinking specifically about this idea of art and communication for about 5 years now, so I have been picking through my own thoughts for a while. All the same, I understand what you are saying a little better. It is similar to my recent thoughts where any particular work of art is a conduit or a door or window to a particular moment in time of the artist. The work itself doesn't communicate more than it may convey or transmit and even then it may convey nothing more than what the artist saw and how he saw it. It isn't art becaue it does this. It is art because it was created. In the process it may or may not convey anything.

But I do believe art is good in and of itself. God said as much about his own art. It didn't need to do anything more than have been created. He created and then said "It is good", no qualifiers or purpose needed other than simply existing.

Words are an interesting comparison. But words in and of themselves are simply the raw materials, not the finished work of art. Although I find the French word for 66 and the Italian word for 51 quite invigorating! And I love to read and listen to George Will to learn new words!

And I couldn't disagree more about the rose! :-) I think it is one of the most beautiful works of art around! Roses and tulips. Irises are good, too. But I could look at a rose for hours.

Just my thoughts,

Joe Futral

Edited by jfutral

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any particular work of art is a conduit or a door or window to a particular moment in time of the artist. The work itself doesn't communicate more than it may convey or transmit and even then it may convey nothing more than what the artist saw and how he saw it. It isn't art becaue it does this. It is art because it was created. In the process it may or may not convey anything.

Is all human creation then to be defined as "art"? That seems like a definition that winds up being so broad as to be vigorously unhelpful.

But I do believe art is good in and of itself. God said as much about his own art. It didn't need to do anything more than have been created. He created and then said "It is good", no qualifiers or purpose needed other than simply existing.

I guess I'd disagree that God's creation is "art." God's creation is good, no question. But to my mind, art is a human activity that seeks to organize, interpret and communicate our observations about God's creation (and its subsequent fallenness, and his gracious redemption).

Words are an interesting comparison. But words in and of themselves are simply the raw materials, not the finished work of art. Although I find the French word for 66 and the Italian word for 51 quite invigorating! And I love to read and listen to George Will to learn new words!

Words are raw materials - so are brush strokes and paint, or motions in dance, or notes in music. They are assembled together in imaginative ways to communicate some theme, message, emotion, reflection, insight, beauty, and can do so in ways that are truthful or deceptive, beautiful or ugly, shallow or insightful.

And I couldn't disagree more about the rose! :-) I think it is one of the most beautiful works of art around! Roses and tulips. Irises are good, too. But I could look at a rose for hours.

Saying that a rose is not art is not to say that a rose is not beautiful or good! Any more than saying that "a rose is not an economic forecast" somehow demeans the flower. I could look at my wife for hours, but she is not art, except in the analogous way that we use the word to try to describe the beauty of God's creation. But art is a human activity. Saying that a rose is not art is just a matter of definition, not of dimunition.

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Is all human creation then to be defined as "art"? That seems like a definition that winds up being so broad as to be vigorously unhelpful.

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I guess I'd disagree that God's creation is "art." God's creation is good, no question. But to my mind, art is a human activity that seeks to organize, interpret and communicate our observations about God's creation (and its subsequent fallenness, and his gracious redemption).

...

Words are raw materials - so are brush strokes and paint, or motions in dance, or notes in music. They are assembled together in imaginative ways to communicate some theme, message, emotion, reflection, insight, beauty, and can do so in ways that are truthful or deceptive, beautiful or ugly, shallow or insightful.

...

Saying that a rose is not art is not to say that a rose is not beautiful or good! Any more than saying that "a rose is not an economic forecast" somehow demeans the flower. I could look at my wife for hours, but she is not art, except in the analogous way that we use the word to try to describe the beauty of God's creation. But art is a human activity. Saying that a rose is not art is just a matter of definition, not of dimunition.

Working a bit backwards, to say a rose is a beautiful work of art is not to say that art is always beautiful, let me clear that up right now, if it needed clearing. All the same, it is art. It, too, is made from raw materials assembled in a specific fashion. (As an aside, I would not be the one to tell my wife she is not a work of art!)

To sum up the gist of your post, God does not create art? Art is simply a human invention? Somehow man came up with this on his own? I have a hard time fathoming this. What is God's creation if not art? And what is art if not creativity? And if man is creative from where did he receive his creativity if not from a creative God?

As an example of God's art we can look at the instructions for the Temple, if you do not wish to look at creation itself (which still baffles me). If we look at God's instructions for the temple we find a great deal of art for simple reasons, such as beauty--no message to convey. Gems were placed for beauty, no other reason.

I have not said nor do I say that any or all human creation is art. In case that needed clearing, too. And when I say that art is good in and of itself, I only mean it does not have to serve a purpose or communicate a message in order to be appreciated or have value.

All that said, I do not believe your use of communication (imaginative or otherwise, and I have seen my share of unimaginative art as I am sure you have, too!) to describe art is reductionistic. I do believe it is too close as to confuse, but that's just my opinion. It runs the risk that art is only an intellectual or emotional statement. After hearing you more, I do not believe that is where you are coming from. Am I correct?

I suggest reading Francis Schaeffer's _Art and the Bible_ if you haven't already. If you want a copy I have several that I have purchesed just for the purpose of giving them away. I'll be glad to mail you one.

In terms of competition, in _Art and the Bible_ Schaeffer has four criteria on which art can be judged. Maybe we can encourage the Dove Awards to use his criteria!

Here are a couple of passages from his pamphlet:

http://www.homeschool.co.uk/resource/art-and-the-bible.html

Joe Futral

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I suggest reading Francis Schaeffer's _Art and the Bible_ if you haven't already. If you want a copy I have several that I have purchesed just for the purpose of giving them away. I'll be glad to mail you one.

In terms of competition, in _Art and the Bible_ Schaeffer has four criteria on which art can be judged. Maybe we can encourage the Dove Awards to use his criteria!

Here are a couple of passages from his pamphlet:

http://www.homeschool.co.uk/resource/art-and-the-bible.html

For more thoughts on this book and Schaeffer's approach to art, see this thread.

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Working a bit backwards, to say a rose is a beautiful work of art is not to say that art is always beautiful, let me clear that up right now, if it needed clearing. All the same, it is art. It, too, is made from raw materials assembled in a specific fashion. (As an aside, I would not be the one to tell my wife she is not a work of art!)

"Raw materials assembled in a specific fashion" is a definition too broad for my tastes. For instance, you say that not all human creative action is art, yet it is hard to see how you can exclude it with a definition as broad as yours. Or is that not your definition of art? What is your definition of art? I've put mine forward, I'd be glad for you to do the same. Just as a note, in my paper, I actually define art as metaphorical communication, though "imaginative communication" comes very close.

As for what we tell our wives, "you are a work of art" is itself an artful statement. It is not strictly TRUE, in a propositional sense, but it is true in an artistic sense. If I say that my son Timothy is a tiger, that is artistic communication. It goes beyond propositional truth. You'd be wrong to look for fur or a tail on Timothy, on hearing that statement. At the same time, I'm not lying. When you tell your wife she is a work of art, you are telling her she is beautiful, well-arranged, the sort of form that artists strive to capture and yet fail due to the limitations of brush or stone. You are telling her all that, and more - because a proposition or series of propositions can't capture it. You are telling her the truth, yet what you said is not propositonally true. She's not, propositionally speaking, a work of art. You are using "work of art" as a metaphor to describe her.

To sum up the gist of your post, God does not create art? Art is simply a human invention? Somehow man came up with this on his own? I have a hard time fathoming this. What is God's creation if not art? And what is art if not creativity? And if man is creative from where did he receive his creativity if not from a creative God?

You're not exactly catching my gist. :) ("Catching my gist" is a great phrase, by the way. Use it. always.) God creates! But he does not create art. Art is not "simply" a human invention. Humans are wired up by God to communicate creatively. But art is a human activity. God's creation is many things if not art. It is beautiful, useful, glorious, testimentary, rich, varied, fallen, cruciform, extravagant, lavish, and on and on. And man did receive his creativity from a creative God. I *think* you'll understand my position better if you read my paper. :)

As an example of God's art we can look at the instructions for the Temple, if you do not wish to look at creation itself (which still baffles me). If we look at God's instructions for the temple we find a great deal of art for simple reasons, such as beauty--no message to convey. Gems were placed for beauty, no other reason.

The Temple and Tabernacle play a large part in my theology of art. God loves art, God commands art, God delights in art, God loves beauty, God IS beautiful. Fact is, I *do* want to look at creation itself - I do all the time! :) But beauty IS a message. In and of itself. Beauty is a message. It's a message that no propositions could convey.

All that said, I do not believe your use of communication (imaginative or otherwise, and I have seen my share of unimaginative art as I am sure you have, too!) to describe art is reductionistic. I do believe it is too close as to confuse, but that's just my opinion. It runs the risk that art is only an intellectual or emotional statement. After hearing you more, I do not believe that is where you are coming from. Am I correct?

You are correct; that's not where I am coming from. Perhaps my definition of communication is broader than yours? Like I said, beauty IS a message in and of itself. You can communicate beauty through art. You can communicate horror. You can communicate a whole slew of things that mere propositions cannot touch. A gentle caress of your wife's hand communicates. But what it communicates cannot be strictly put into words - unless those words are artistically arranged. :)

I suggest reading Francis Schaeffer's _Art and the Bible_ if you haven't already. If you want a copy I have several that I have purchesed just for the purpose of giving them away. I'll be glad to mail you one.

Thanks! I've read it, and refer to it in my paper. :) (Sorry about all the paper plugs; it's just that it's 30 pages long, and I worked hard to arrange my thoughts there. It says this stuff better than I can now, or at least forms a good basis for understanding my thought. And for what it's worth, I think it's a pretty good paper!)

I like Eugene E. Veith's criteria by which art can be judged. He looks at the passage where God gifts Bezalel for service, and points out that the Spirit gifted him with:

1. ability (v.31) or talent

2. intelligence (v.31)

3. knowledge (v.31) or applied intelligence

4. craftsmanship (v.31) or mastery of technique

and 5. the ability to teach (v. 34)

(Yes, this IS in my paper :) ) Veith proposes that in judging artistic merit, we look for ability/talent, intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship. I think that works pretty well.

For more thoughts on this book and Schaeffer's approach to art, see this thread.

Andy Whitman with the semi-ahem!

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I suggest reading Francis Schaeffer's _Art and the Bible_ if you haven't already. If you want a copy I have several that I have purchesed just for the purpose of giving them away. I'll be glad to mail you one.

In terms of competition, in _Art and the Bible_ Schaeffer has four criteria on which art can be judged. Maybe we can encourage the Dove Awards to use his criteria!

Here are a couple of passages from his pamphlet:

http://www.homeschool.co.uk/resource/art-and-the-bible.html

For more thoughts on this book and Schaeffer's approach to art, see this thread.

It was interesting reading your understanding of Schaeffer's "grid" as the intellectualism of art he speaks out against in the same pamphlet.

Joe

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