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Lauren Buscemi

Professor Lyndon-Gee
Arts and the Creative Process
January 27, 2014
What is art? What is art for?
Does art need to be beautiful? Who defines beauty?
Art is intrinsically human, it is our way of imprinting upon the world.
Without us art would not exist and without art our existence would be a bleak
version of what it is now. Art must defy expectation by finding the balance between
the expected and unexpected. Art takes the ordinary things that we all know of and
understand and distorts or clarifies them to render them extraordinary. This is
what distinguishes art from non-art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has on
display a large selection of practical items such a bowls, tables, chairs, clothing and
entire dinette sets all of which are considered to be art. What distinguishes these
particular items from those of the same purpose found in everyday stores is that
these items were made by artists who gave incredible attention to detail and design
in their construction.
Items of a practical nature can sometimes be considered art although art
does not always need to be practical. Plato said that art has no end but its own
perfection meaning that art has no purpose outside of itself. This is very true of
music, which is the most ambiguous of all the arts. The fourth movement of
Beethovens Ninth Symphony uses as text Friedrich Schillers poem Ode to Joy,
which commemorates the brotherhood of man.

This same piece has been

performed to celebrate Hitlers birthday as well as the fall of the Berlin wall. It is in
this way that music transcends linguistic meaning and resists allocation.

In many situations art takes on a therapeutic purpose. Music Therapy can be


used to help patients overcome traumatic experiences. Art often helps people who
suffer from depression to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Even prisoners
create art to help them cope with everyday burdens. Art allows people to find their
identity in situations that oppress them. Art can also be used as a therapeutic device
to an entire group of people. The anti-war music of the 60s and 70s helped an
entire generation cope with their opposition to the Vietnam War. Leo Tolstoy has
stated that the business of art lies just in this, -- to make that understood and felt
which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. I
believe Tolstoy is arguing that it is arts business to take on this therapeutic quality
in giving us a medium in which we can express to others thoughts and feelings that
can otherwise not be expressed through language.
The word beauty can be used to describe art but not to discriminate
between which works deserve the title of art and which do not. In Leo Tolstoys
collection of essays entitled What Is Art? he states:
Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious
idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game
in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression
of man's emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing
objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among
men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the
life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.
Since beauty is subjective to the individual we can never give it a finite definition. In
this same way art is subjective and therefore can only be defined by its function
rather than a list of aesthetic values as Tolstoy is arguing above. Tolstoy is also

stating that arts true definition lies in its ability to bring people together and further
the health of not only the individual but also of the community.
With art inherently comes freedom and I believe that when trying to define
art, more than aesthetic, therapeutic, or communal values, freedom must also be
considered. True art cannot exist without freedom and as soon as a government
tries to take away a peoples freedom they begin taking control of the arts. Examples
of such can be seen in German Nazi propaganda and Joseph Stalins control over
Dmitri Shostakovich in Russia. Despite Stalins grip Shostakovich often found ways
of getting around these restrictions although had he been completely free many of
his works may have been quite different.
There is no doubt that art is an important part of life. It brings people
together and allows them to communicate in a way no other medium can. Art can
be contorted to fit the needs of malicious organizations. Although, I believe true art
is best understood as a synonym for freedom which brings us together for the
betterment of humanity.