What makes art?

Whether something should be considered art or not is a very controversial subject as there are  several forms art can take on. Some might argue that if a piece is too simplistic, it might not be art at all.   

Modern art, for example, is often viewed as notorious for being too minimalistic for most peoples’ tastes. They frequently perceive it as being “easy” or “talentless.” Yet, these seemingly plain pieces end up in museums across the globe. A common question is always, “why?” 

I was at the Portland Art Museum a while back, and just as we were leaving, we passed through the Modern Art Exhibit. We stopped by and observed several different works, abstruse sculptures, paintings of geometric figures and abstract shapes. One piece, in particular, caught my attention. A large red rectangle leaning against a wall, titled “Glow” by John McCracken. 

What was so intriguing about it was its description. It read, “… McCracken believed his highly finished works exceeded their materiality: they existed ‘between worlds,’ not only linking floor (the realm of sculpture) and wall (that of painting) but also matter and spirit, body and mind.” 

That part stuck for me. Although at first glance it can seem almost humorous that this underwhelmingly mild appearance can hold so much weight, it is quite clear that there is a deep intention behind it. I’ve thought about it (somewhat ironically) of what it could mean. Trying to make sense of “connecting realms.” 

Theorizing that possibly the reason it mentions, “spirit, body and mind,” is because that is where the artist stands, and where their view comes from. In between the space of sculpture and painting. The further I thought about it though, the further I realized that it wasn’t a careless creation, there was real meaning in it. Whether or not it might be appealing to you, it’s far from unimaginative. 

I chose this one to write about, and why I see it as the most interesting, is because it is one of the most prominent examples of how people view art. Generally criticizing its mere appearance, and making their own assumptions, rarely taking the artist’s vision into consideration. 

I believe that whether something should be labeled as art is the creator’s decision. Regardless of if the viewer particularly is drawn to the work, it is, in the end, art. It can be appreciated from different angles as well. 

Work Cited 

 “Glow” description by John McCracken, 2004 at the Portland Art Museum, 2017. Photographed by Samuel Shin. 

Author – Samuel S

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