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What Is "What Is Art?"?

Updated on February 1, 2012


Anything, anywhere, anytime can be art. The question is misguided.

Artifact Vs Attitude

The question, “What is art?” is ultimately absurd. Art is whatever the eye beholds in an artful frame of mind. An artful frame of mind is a readiness to see beyond apparently stable boundaries of physical objects and actions, into the dynamic relationships between objects and actions.

More than a tangible artifact, art is an intangible attitude. More than a logical explanation, it is a psychological focus or an emotional disposition that finds particular landing places in things that are only momentarily stable. The intangible artful attitude separates certain entities from all others in ways that enable us to appreciate life.

The artful attitude can be intentional (requiring hours of focused purpose), or it can be unintentional (occurring largely by chance in the moment). Skillful genius, mechanical repetition, and random choice are all legitimate avenues towards art. Either way, the art object or art event calls on human reason and human emotions.

Trying to define art objectively, then, is a hopeless endeavor. As human consciousness has evolved from a time of simple cave dwelling to a time of complex creative living, the question, “What is art?” has steadily evolved to elude any definitive answer. Anything, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances can be art, depending on frame of reference, state of mind, and state of the observer’s emotions.

Why The Question?

The question, “What is art?” is an anomaly of language – a misguided exercise in trying to answer what cannot be answered according to what is being asked.

“Why do green sounds fly gallantly through flavorful air?” Just because we can construct such a grammatically correct sentence does not mean that such a sentence has any legitimate use, other than to exercise our mind’s play with words. The question of what constitutes art similarly exercises our minds, but even more, it alerts our minds to a higher form of knowledge that exceeds verbal, categorical grasp.

Consequently, a better question to ask is "What is ‘What is art?’”?" Again, the answer is that it is a confused question. Art is not a “what” – it is a “when” and a “why”. Art is a judgment that exceeds numerical quantities and objective measures. We, thus, always know what art is by feeling, but we cannot say exactly what art is. We know without being able to reason. We know through deeper sensory experience, which transcends the particular sort of exactitude demanded by spoken or written language.

Knowledge Beyond Measure

There is knowledge beyond words. There is measure beyond numbers, There is intelligence beyond categories. Art, thus, taps into unspoken knowledge, numberless measure, and a-categorical intelligence.

More than a framed painting, art is a frame of mind.


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    • profile image

      R. J. Lefebvre 

      6 years ago


      Your right on tract, your hub hit the bulls eye. Art is no difference than mental perceptions. We all coalesce by the environment we live in, which includes art.


    • Austin Dawursk profile image

      Austin Dawursk 

      6 years ago

      I believe anything that you have an opinion on is art. A pen to one person his a work of art to the creator. Best art are the ones that evoke an emotion. A feeling that is genuine. Great Hub


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