Thursday, May 19, 2011

assigning meaning and purpose to art


      Art has had many unique, different, reasons for being created. Some of these functions of Art are summarized in the outline below. Evaluating the artistic purpose of an artwork based upon the original intent of the artist or their culture is vital to the greater understanding of all human cultures. What we perceive as non-motivated functions of art or as motivated functions of art may be defined by our own perceptions of "value" thus creating a false perspective about multiple societies, cultures, and belief systems on the whole. This is why it is important to understand the original intent of an artist in order to teach the meaning of his art appropriately. The original intent of an artist does not necessarily mean that one can’t enjoy or appreciate the art that one does not share a common interest in or belief with those who created it. Original intent is an argument made in defense of correct history. In fact one of the greatest purposes of art is to teach us about ourselves. We cannot learn about ourselves if we are dishonest or if we misinterpret the meaning behind the artworks’ creation in order to satisfy an argument that the original artist never intended to be addressed within venue of their own experiences.
      If students give meaning or assign purposes for creating art themselves, they will feel more inclined to persevere with their assignments. There should be a balance between my opinions and those ideas my students have about the creative process. Because my students have many experiences and beliefs of their own, it is by far more advantageous for me to design lessons that give them license for broad interpretations. I never hesitate to superimpose an academic perspective of issues when my students’ education is at stake, however, I do try to make room for their personal opinions as well.
      I hope that people who read here will discover that there are as many purposes to art as there are reasons for communication with others. I've listed below a few of the most common purposes found in both my own culture and the culture of many other peoples. Certainly any number of these purposes may be true of more than one single artwork. Before planning my own art curriculum, I reflect on the purpose of the lesson seriously. I make a list of “pros and cons” for the project and try to think about it objectively. This kind of study will helps me to improve the “way” I teach and the “whys” for my instructions.

  1. Religious purposes of art – Art created in a religious context is used to inspire or interpret spiritual experiences, beliefs, covenants, religious institutions and ideas. Some cultures develop elaborate symbolism or process to mirror their philosophy or theology illustrated by an artwork. 
  2. Commercial purposes of art – The commercial purposes of art are intended to influence people to spend money. Sometimes deception or the manipulation of a select group is predetermined by a business industry in order to solicit money from them. Not all commercial purposes are negative. Sometimes commercial industry meets the true, actualized needs of others. A good example of this would be to create art that markets important medicine.
  3. Aesthetic purposes of art – Aestheticism is the pursuit of a positive idealistic concept in art. Aesthetic artworks vary widely from culture to culture.
  4. Decorative purposes of art – Decorative purposes in art are often confused with aesthetic purposes but, they are not the same. For an artwork to be “decorative” it is generally thought appealing but it does not necessarily illustrate an idealistic point of view. Generally speaking, decorative works are produced through ritualized pattern making.
  5. *Utilitarian purposes of art – A utilitarian artwork serves two or more purposes at the same time. The quilt, being produced by an artist, may demonstrate aesthetic qualities or decorative purposes but, it is also crafted for the purpose of keeping someone warm. In utilitarian artworks there is always a practical applied reason for that artwork to be made apart from it’s artistic purposes. An iron may be designed beautifully but it’s other aim is to smooth out wrinkles with heat. 
  6. Meditation purposes of art – Art that is the result of meditation looks different depending upon the artist who creates it. In Christianity meditation may be contemplative or resemble great study. To create a meditative purpose in their artwork is to “infill their own spirit with multiple pieces of information.” Whereas, in religious meditative practices of Buddhists, to meditate is to “empty out” the thinking process. So these artistic purposes of meditation are accurately represented as containing less information. In both cases, however, the end result of the meditation is the artwork that is the result of the meditation.
  7. Therapeutic purposes of art – Therapeutic purposes in art are intended to be used by those who participate in them as a form of catharsis. A purification or purgation of their emotions such as pity or fear. These purposes are generally conceived to be ridding the artist of “unwanted” ideas. It is a purging process for a Christian and should not be confused with Christian meditation.
  8. Political purposes of art – A political artwork is made in reference to government or a political system. It could be negative or positive depending on the artist’s point of view.
  9. Academic purposes of art – Academic artworks are produced by or for the purposes of an institution of higher learning. Many times, artists perceive Avant-garde artworks as having strong ties to academic purposes. However, academic purposes are always defined by a faculty and these may change given the members of the faculty at present.
  10. Avant-garde purposes of art – An avant-garde work pushes the known boundaries of acceptable art. These boundaries could be about revolution, culture or politics. It just depends upon the predisposition of the artist himself.
  11. Historical purposes of art – This purpose of historical art is to retell actualized events that have taken place in the form of a visual reference.
  12. Intimate purposes of art – Intimate purposes in art works primarily reflect the individual needs of the person creating the artwork.
  13. Folk art purposes of art – These are sometimes historical but often are stories relating an event or idea that are conceived from a less educated point of technical skill in an artist and also have a tendency to give a story teller’s point of view in depiction. Whereas historical works are believed to be less about the beliefs of those painting them than they are about the facts relating the event.
  14. Illustrative purposes of art – These purposes are to demonstrate things, people and places as these appear to the human eye.
  15. Entertainment purposes of art - The purpose of the art of entertainment is to occupy people(s) with art that diverts their attention from daily routine and labor. This is a very broad category for "purpose" because there are so many alternative views of entertainment. Some of these views are very destructive and some are harmless. "Entertainment'' can be loosely defined in American culture. It is usually dictated by those who are promoting their own agendas. 
*Utilitarian in the arts is derivative of the word util-i-ty from Middle English. It is not used in context with the word utilitarianism which is a theory.
article copyrighted 20011 by Grimm