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The Mystery of Art

29 March 2010 No Comment

guest post by Thomas Ward

Frail Flowers Amid Tiny Pine TreesWhat is art?  What determines “good” art?  Why do different people observing the same piece regard it with antithetical perceptions?

We humans have been asking these questions for a long time.  I suspect the earliest human rock drawings and ivory carvings were viewed with wide eyes and smiles by some and furrowed brows and curled lips by others.  Why?

I don’t have an inside track to ideas regarding artistic value, but, some factors are fairly obvious.

One is scarcity.  One of the 6 human tendencies is to desire what is hard to get.[1] As an artist’s work becomes scarcer, it becomes more valuable.  Other human tendencies involved in artistic perception are Liking, Social Validation and Authority.

Obviously, you’ll have a higher regard for art if you find it pleasing ………. to look at, listen to, etc. In other words, actually liking it helps.

Desirability also increases if lots of people seem to like it – Social Validation.  And if someone with perceived Authority (especially in the considered field) blesses a work, it will be seen as being of greater value.

These four human tendencies, taken together, can create a perception of an artist, or a work, that transcends rational thinking.  Thank goodness, the irrationality of most of the thinking is positive and simply enhances.

We are individuals.

As such, we are not all drawn to a work because it is “known” to be good.  However, the amount of enjoyment derived from a work of art is directly related to how much value that work has – to the one who values it!

So, art truly is in the eye of the beholder.  We know that several of the most renowned masters struggled for years before their work was considered valuable.  We know the art itself has not changed; we have the actual original art.  What has changed is the perception of the value of the art.  What has not changed is the ability to enjoy the art.

Another determinant to the value, perception and enjoyability of art is the mystery surrounding a particular work.  The mysterious aspect of a work of art allows each observer to use his own imagination to solve the mystery……..and we can solve the mystery in a different way every time we observe a work.

Another factor to be considered in the perception of art is the emotional cost of the work in question. What I mean by that is, did the artist expend any emotional energy during the creation of the work?  Oftentimes the emotion expended during the creation of a work is evident to the ones who appreciate it most.

Many of my most interesting subjects are found while driving my car.  I seem to see things others don’t.  If other motorists see what I see, we’d have a wreck-a-mile because I stop quick!  I just have to find out what that was I thought I saw.

I can hardly wait to get a closer look at it.  That’s a real draw, for me; finding curious things, beautiful things.

It’s hard for others to join me on a hike.  I’m always stopping to investigate an interesting plant or flower.  Recently while searching for a lost radio controlled airplane (yes, I’m a poor pilot, that’s why I was searching) I stepped out of the “big woods” into a pleasant pasture. The “big woods” are owned by a timber company and they grow huge pine trees.  Just as you leave the woods there’s a transition area.  Transition areas are where the action is – if you like to see plants and animals.

By the way, I found my plane.  It was 100 ft. up and in several pieces!  And I wasn’t in a very good mood.  However, as I came into the pasture, right at the transition area, I stepped onto an amazing “carpet” of pine trees.  Millions of pine trees, no taller than your hand-laid-flat.  So thick, you couldn’t make a step without crushing hundreds.  And oh-so-sparingly spaced among the trees were the tiniest, frail, magnificent flowers!

Naturally, my camera was a mile away and it was getting dark.  But, as luck would have it, the next morning my friends were right where I left them.

Carpet of Tiny Pine Trees

Interested in fine art nature photography for your home or office? Visit the TurnKey Art Solutions website for more about framed photography from Thomas Ward.


[1] “The Science of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini, Scientific American, February 2001, Pp 76-81.

http://www.socialcommercetoday.com/downloads/CialdiniSciAmerican.pdf

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