In our class discussions, course readings, and my own experience as an artist, I have had the opportunity to evaluate what I believe is the purpose of art. The class has been focused on the writings of Roger Scruton and Kent Logan, who have differing ideas on art; and while I do not fully agree with either critic, I do find that both of them raise intriguing points on art and beauty.
From these readings and my own experiences, I have found three major values that art has.
Art breaks the everyday routine, gives insight into the world, and it is the connection between an individual and society. Many of these ideas came from Scruton’s essay Beauty: A Very Short Introduction and his documentary Why Beauty Matters, but I have found that Logan adds to them in his The Logan Collection; A Collector’s Philosophy.
One of the purposes of art is that it brings beauty into everyday life and breaks the routine that dominates society today.
In his documentary, Why Beauty Matters, Scruton explains how people experience beauty by saying, “most of the time our lives are organized by our everyday concerns, but now and then we find ourselves jolted out of our complacency in the presence of something vastly more important than our immediate desires and interests, something not of this world” (Why Beauty Matters). In Scruton’s writing, he discussed how, in the 20th century, utility became more important than beauty, thus causing experiences of beauty to become rarer and rarer.
This change in the views of beauty transformed the world as mass production grew and modern architecture was created, causing art to be pushed aside as people could not see what use it had. This experience that Scruton describes though is a major part of art’s purpose. In the routine-driven society of today, art brings beauty to the world and makes people stop and take a moment. Logan agrees with this point, believing that art makes people think as he says, “Vicki and I believe this show embodied one of the most intellectually imaginative and stimulating curatorial insights into our collection” (Logan 4). It is one of the things that Logan prizes about his collection, that it stimulates the imagination and provokes thought. In my own experience as a viewer, taking a moment to appreciate art allows me to think and often improves my morale. It is also one of the reasons that I am an artist; because it allows me to take a break from my work and immerse myself in something I truly enjoy. While Scruton believes that this value of art has been overlooked by society, I disagree. Recently the impact of the repetitive, simple, and ugly nature of modern architecture has been recognized and society has begun to change. The post-modern moment has encouraged making everyday things more aesthetically pleasing, and though it may not fit Scruton’s idea of traditional beauty, society has not dismissed this value that art brings.
In Scruton and Logan’s works, they discuss how art offers insight into the world. According to Scruton, art can reveal truths about human nature as he says, “our favorite works of art seem to guide us to the truth of the human condition and, by presenting completed instances of human actions and passions, freed from the contingencies of everyday life, to show the worthwhileness of being human” (Scruton 128). Scruton’s view relates deeply to what he believes is true art. In his opinion, art should focus on the human form and strive for divine-like beauty. He believes that when one views art, one should be inspired and empowered by its beauty, thus giving insight into the worthwhileness of life. While Scruton focuses on truths relating to human nature, Logan believes it shows a broader perspective by saying, “art is a mirror of our culture and that the best of it provides insight into issues that face us as individuals and as a society as a whole” (Logan 1). To Logan, art is most meaningful to the people in the culture it was made in and at the time it was created. His collection focuses on this theme as he and his wife look for new works of art that they believe reflect something about the society they were made in. Unlike Scruton, Logan puts meaning over the traditional ideals of beauty, but both critics would agree that art offers insight into the world. I believe that this value of art has aided in what Scruton considers the demise of beauty. Much of the artwork today is created to share a purpose and to do that, artists often default to using shock, gore, and ugliness to express their meaning. One of the things that I admire most about an artist is when they can successfully share insight into the world while still producing a very lovely piece of art. I believe that several of the works of art that fit this description express both Scruton and Logan’s ideas of beauty.
The purpose of art that impacts me the most as an artist is that it connects the individual to their community. Scruton described this at the beginning of his chapter on artistic beauty, stating that, “art became the enterprise through which the individual announces himself to the world” (Scruton 97). Art opens a gateway to creativity and a new way of communicating one’s thoughts, passions, and imagination with the world. It allows individuals to share concepts and ideas that cannot be expressed in simple words. It is one of the reasons I love art and I believe the effect of this purpose has greatly expanded in the modern world. At the beginning of the Romantic Movement, art allowed individuals to share their ideas with their community, but it was a limited range of people. Now with the development of technology, an artist’s audience can truly be the world. The internet has become a major way for anyone, not just famous artists, to share their imagination and for anyone else to view it. To me, this is a great inspiration to create art because I know I can share it with all kinds of people and get feedback from a very large community. Logan also views art as a connection to the individual’s mind as he says, “drawings, or works on paper, are an important component of our collection; we find this medium more truly reflects the actual hand and first thought of the artist” (Logan 5). In the quote, he refers to a specific method, drawing, and I completely agree with him. Personally, drawing is my favorite form of creating art, whether it be on a piece of paper or digitally because it has such a large range of uses. Drawing can be a simple doodle to relax, a fast sketch when one has a burst of inspiration, or can be rendered into beautiful and complete works of art. All of these uses are examples of how art can be a form of communicating the artist’s mind to the world. To me, this purpose is the main reason I draw, to share my imagination with others.
Analyzing Scruton and Logan’s work has allowed me to reflect on my art and what purpose it serves. As discussed before, I find that technology has been one of the greatest aids to my artwork. The internet provided the means for me to learn how to draw as well as share my work with my community. Several years ago I joined the site DeviantArt, which is a worldwide community for artists of all skill levels and interests. From the feedback I received there I was able to improve my work over the years. Similar to Scruton, I find the human form to be the most beautiful subject matter for art, therefore a vast majority of my work focuses on people.
Unlike Scruton’s ideals of beauty though, my style is not realism realistic not aimed at divine-like beauty. Instead, my style is inspired by more modern artists, such as Yana Toboso, who creates amazing manga and anime-styled works. Many of the artists who have influenced me the most are those I follow on sites such as Tumblr because I can have direct interaction with them. This leads me to the purpose of my art. When I looked more at my portfolio, I found that I do not create art for the sake of sharing some world truth with the individual or society. This is something I do not believe that Scruton or Logan considered; what motivates artists to create art. The purpose of my art is to connect with others with similar passions and show them my imagination. Much of the art I currently draw is focused on my interests, such as what shows I am watching or recent books I have read, so it is a great way to connect with people. Most importantly though, I love art because it allows me expressing my creativity and do something I enjoy.
Art has no one true purpose, nor is it limited to these three. The ones I selected impacted me the most and were reflected in Scruton and Logan’s works. In Beauty: A Very Short Introduction and Why Beauty Matters, Scruton discussed how art brings beauty to the world, shares insight with its viewers, and serves as the artist’s connection to their community. Logan’s writing in The Logan Collection; A Collector’s Philosophy then built off of these main three purposes with how they show in his collection. These values of art also connect to my own life, both as a view and creator, and all are reasons that inspire me as an artist.