Defining Art


Noele Lehnhoff, Writer

There are many things in life that are difficult to define. There are things we cannot comprehend or simply cannot explain. Art is one of the densest terms in the English language, considering what people generally refer to as “art”. Some think that what can and cannot be defined as art is an opinion, while others say things need to stay in specific guidelines to be considered art. When someone creates something, or something is created, and it is classified as art, the questions always surface: can this really be considered art? What is art?

A question about art that would take thought, yet could be easier to answer, is if art is something that can be classified by sight, touch, hearing, etc. or can it only be classified by the way it makes a person feel? According to students, a fairly even amount of answers arose, 39.3% saying they can always rely on their physical senses to identify art, 31.1% saying they could feel it emotionally and 29.6% saying something else or both. 

A far simpler question that can be posed is whether art can even be defined. Once again, the answers were quite varied, 24.6% saying that it can, 29.5% saying that it cannot, and 45.9% saying that it depended on the situation.

Those who believed art was an impossible thing to defined explained how deep and overflowing with meaning the word actually is.

“Art is a broad category. It can be and mean many things,” Margaret Smith (‘20) said

“Art is an opinion. Something that means nothing to one person can be truly inspirational to another,” Jacob Nelson (‘22) explained

On the contrary, there were people who had a solid, or at the very least stable definition of what can and cannot be considered art.

“Art to me is paintings, drawings, music, etc,” Matthew Fisher (‘23) said.

“[Art] can be defined as a design or look of something,” Jackson Mathison (‘21) said.

When asked what art meant, personally, to them, people came up with many beautifully worded descriptions and explanations, perfectly fulfilling the question that has been asked this whole time.  

“Art is a picture in motion. Not one you can see, but one you can sense. Art is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder,” Nashod Chappel (‘21) stated.

[Art can be] anything. Desk? Art. Chair? Art. Drawing? Art. Presentation? Art. This website? Art. Each has its own unique place in the world and was created by someone with a talent that is not easily replicated,” Tessa Gilliland (‘23) said.

It may seem as though there is no real, sound, satisfying definition. However, who is to say there needs to be one? Art is anything, everything, the absence of anything and everything. Drawings, paintings, literature, movies, plays, even the descriptions of art itself above. Art is an opinion, a feeling, a thought, a sight, taste, texture, sound, smell. It may seem chaotic and boundless, but that is what makes it beautiful. It is ironic, in a way, that even the thought of what art may be is an artistic experience in itself.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email