I was on deviantART this morning, perusing the What's Hot section of the front page. It's a nice mix of photography, digital art, photo manipulations, sculpture, etc. I like to keep up with what my peers are doing.
Zentangle trio by Kyla Reese. Used with permission of artist.
I clicked on http://www.deviantart.com/art/Magic-Dress-01-462682323 and was reading the comments. Within the comments, the photographer got into a heated discussion with a commenter regarding whether the photo was pornographic and whether it was art. I found the question of whether the photo was pornographic rather absurd, as there is no nudity or sexual activity depicted in the photo, and indeed it appeared on the What's Hot page with mature content hidden. There still remained the question as to whether this was art.
Later on in the morning, I read an article in Trailer Life magazine about a 26-foot-tall sculpture in Sarasota, FL, depicting the famous Time photograph of the V-J Day kiss. It seems that there are some folks there who are up in arms about it and think it should be removed (and, of course, as in every public debate, there are those just as vehemently opposed to removing it). One of the persons quoted in the article described it as "tacky." And there was the question as to whether this was art.
I respect the opinion that the statue is tacky, whether I agree with it or not (I've not seen it in person, so I reserve forming an opinion). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no one is going to produce art that appeals to everyone. Heck, I think the Mona Lisa is over-hyped, although I would still consider it art. So why the debate as to what is art? I blame the currently held definitions of what constitutes art.
Now, for the obligatory definition for Messrs. Merriam and Webster. Their dictionary defines art as something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings. I'm not really thrilled with that definition. How skilled? As I said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so who's to say whether it's beautiful? To whom must the ideas or feelings be important? No, I don't care for this definition. It's limiting and exclusionary.
I would posit that art is a representation of something real or imagined or some combination thereof produced for the intended purpose of expressing the creativity of the artist. With this definition, it need not be "beautiful" or "important" which are subjective anyway. It encompasses all forms of creative products, from sculpture to photography to literature to illustrations. It places the burden of deciding if something is art on the creator and his/her intent, and removes the second guessing or questioning of validity of the consumer of the art. Under this definition, little children have as much right to consider their drawings art as does any other artist, new or old, master or novice. It respects the effort that the artists invest in their art and removes the need for them to defend their art (or at least the definition of such).
I consider what I write and illustrate to be art. It may not be good art, and I respect anyone’s right to not like it, but don't tell me it's not art (and no one has, so far, so this isn't me being bitter). After all, if someone takes the time to bring forth their creation and to share with another, who is that second person to question whether the creation is legitimately art. If the creator thinks it's art, that should be good enough.