Further Ramblings Of A Philistine

1st July 2011

I’m very pleased to say that one person has taken the time and effort to reply to my rambling about ‘Am I A Philistine?’ and it’s good to know that I’m not howling into the wilderness and being lost in the background noise.

What Rob, that’s the name of the person who replied, has clarified for me is that I wasn’t clear in what I was being a Philistine about.  I hope this nonsense I’m writing now will help clear that up.

Whilst not all genre’s of photography will appeal to everyone, the same way as not all genre’s of film or painting or writing appeal to everyone, if an image is to be called art, then I believe it should be able to show everyone that it has some worth that makes it stand out from other images so that everyone can say it is art.  If the image doesn’t have that “je ne sais quoi” and relies entirely on the meaning ascribed either by so-called ‘experts’, or even the person who is looking at the image, to make the image into art, then surely the image is not art, but the meaning ascribed is and therefore the image is meaningless?

In the case of the “Identical Twins” and a “Family On Their Lawn One Sunday In Westchester”, by Diane Arbus, would these images be hung on any wall through their own merit?  Not on my wall they wouldn’t, nor would any image I took myself in a similar style.  If they are art, then any photograph taken at random by anyone, of twins, or any other children, or any family scene, would also necessarily have to be viewed as being in the same class as any that Diane Arbus creates; or can that form of art only be generated once, be accepted as such, and any other attempt becomes non-art?  If that is the case then does that apply to painting, writing, sculpture or any other art form?  I don’t think so!

I wouldn’t necessarily hang a Picasso on my wall because his style doesn’t appeal to me, I’d love to own one though, but I would hang a Salvador Dali.  Whats’ the difference then between Diane Arbus and Picasso?  Well apart from the obvious, one is painting the other photography, Picasso can be seen by all to be art and is acclaimed as such, whereas Arbus isn’t acclaimed by all, possibly because her work isn’t as well-known, but from a straw poll of my friends and neighbours, not one of them thought either photograph was artistic enough to be hung on their walls either.  Now it could be said that my friends and neighbours will necessarily have similar tastes to me because that’s how social circles are built, but I would expect at least one from just over forty questioned.

So what is art?  Certainly it’s in the eye of the beholder, but it must also have a more general acceptance before it can be acclaimed to be art by critics, doesn’t it?  I know the critics wouldn’t agree as their livelihood depends on people, or sheep, accepting the ‘Kings Suit of Clothes’ approach.  Surprisingly though, even those we would acclaim as all time greats, Da Vinci, Constable and Turner had critics, but no-one said they’re work wasn’t art.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is; art in and of itself must be able to appeal to a mass audience on its own merits and not require interpretation to be considered art.  If it does require meaning to be ascribed before the beholder sees it as art, then the meaning is art and the image meaningless.  Just what I said earlier on!  Was the effort of all this writing worth it?  Who knows, only my critics ……. and possibly one respondent.  Are you out there Rob?


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