Art is more than just a pretty painting on a canvas or some new tune chopped up and used to sell really crappy beer that has no real depth of flavor or quality. This simple three letter word is more than just cheap, mass printed flyers that you buy at the local Wal-mart to decorate your empty walls. Art is way more than poorly written trash novels that we read in our beds at night, wondering how did someone make so many spelling and grammatical errors and still have a product to sell. Our quick American society treasures standardized tests scores over having one art class to offer to the students–by cutting these programs where creativity and expression reign the message that art can be taken away without any ‘real time’ repercussions since its now the era of math, science, and tedious testing. The Renaissance is long gone and with it the era of patrons and great artists rising to the pinnacle of human craftsmanship has been replaced with the industrial/technological movement of the times.
This society is lacking a true understanding of what art really is here for and why art came along in the first place. This simple three letter word has morphed from capturing human experience to a high-end society where only a select few can make it and those select few are stereotyped with snobbish personalities and illogical lives. What does art do? Why does something like art exist in the first place? How are these artists living in this society? Let’s take these deep questions to those who have made a living questioning everything and writing about anything: the philosophers. For the purpose of these paper, these sources will be used.
Kant divides art into two categories, agreeable art and fine art, and separates the arts based on utility. The agreeable arts exist for merely enjoyment and nothing more. Entertaining stories, jokes, and other charms are classified as agreeable arts because the point of these arts are to enjoy the moment. There is nothing wrong with these arts, as everything has a season. These are not the arts I wish to examine. People are not going to question art for the purpose of entertainment since this provides a release from the mundane with something quick and effective. This is different from the fine arts because the fine arts shares its purpose in making you think. Fine art has a purpose beyond the literal paint and this purpose extends to our own culture through means of social communication. Unlike the agreeable arts for Kant, the fine arts require foundational information (such as historical context) for one to fully grasp their meaning. As someone who has taken a number of art history classes (and happens to have an art minor), I agree with Kant’s breakdown of the fine arts. To grasp an understanding of any fine art, from a painting to ceramics having that foundation of background knowledge enriches the artwork rather than takes away.
Creating art requires an impressive amount of cognitive thought and skill. As an artist I strive to reach within and around myself to reflect the problems, status, or just ponderings from someone of our time. The model of the poverty-stricken artist is a relatively new stereotype designed to keep those creative kids at bay from becoming artists by threatening their future lives. Those who make the art, these artists, breathe and thrive in the world he/she happened to be born. Those who are extremely gifted are often hailed as prodigies in their form, be it painting or composing, giving birth to the other stereotype of the gifted artist. The gifted artist has great ability and natural talent yet is tormented by some glaring human flaw, be it mental, addiction, or any other condition that separates them from society. Adorno does not distinguish the two archetypes but rather writes that society view artists who give an uncensored view on life as neurotics.
Neurosis is defined as both a mental and emotional disorder, affecting only part of the personality with a distorted perception of reality and a variety of other anxieties and/or phobias. Neurosis goes well with both of my archetypes for the artist. The poor artist is tolerated by others yet cannot achieve any lasting measure of financial success while the gifted artist has the skill and talented to make plenty of money yet is haunted by a critical mental or emotional flaw. Both of the artists are detached from the ‘real world’ of specialized labor by their neurosis, letting the citizens tolerate or pity the artist rather than critically thinking about the flaws within the society. The detached archetypes of the artist could not be farther from the mark. Being an artist means you are both connected and estranged from reality.
The degree of this dualism will vary individually yet there is nothing like being your average citizen and going into an creative driven, coffee fueled state the next. This state feels particularly wild as I travel somewhere with a case of paints, brushes, & paper and just do instead of overthinking. In this state I am cut from society in terms of normalcy and thought process–an unbridled form of tunnel vision sets in where this constant impulse must be satisfied before rational thought returns. I am attached to my society by terms of life yet I constantly detach to engage within the process. Artistic production encompases creativity and imagination. These, however, are not the only forces at play when an artist goes to create. In Adorno’s view, other unseen forces work as material and are translated into the physical realm in the product of the art by form. Without the unseen forces the work would just be a copy of a former piece of art. I will surmise that without form the forces could not be tangible to the outside citizens as there would not be an artwork in the physical realm. As a creator an artist must use both to achieve the goal of the work.
The other side of this is making art just for the sake of selling to the public. Money is an important element of a monetary society yet the problem is not with selling works. The problem is making art purely for the exhibition value, which Adorno equates this to socialist realism accommodates the status quo. In another word, art that is purely for sale devotes itself to the level of propaganda. It is known that propaganda is made exclusively with a message that is going to be pushed on the public.
Art comes from society and into society has a reflection and helping hand for us to utilize. Our society today is set in a dilemma that seems straightforward on the surface yet deserves more than the surface answers: what is the value of art in today’s world? Adorno, during his stay in America, pointed out the ‘culture industry’ that dismayed him. The culture industry is the other things that surround art, namely the people and how we interact within this construct of society. The problem with the culture industry is when you are immersed within it, one can point out the ways that art may not apply to the present life yet cannot pick out the flaws of their own society. It is easy to criticise something that you cannot envision in your own busy 9-5 world and easier to assume that in this industrial age we have risen above the need for it. The saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies to art within our society. If people interact with art based solely on possessing the item without a thought of the content within them this tendency will reflect itself when you view it. If someone is truly immersed in reality television, cell phone technology, and social media what would they have to say about the Starry Night? Would one get a similar response to Teen Mom?
As our policymakers evaluate America art programs, from national grants to the public school, are being cut across the country. Why should we fund the arts when technology and the sciences are driving the age of modernization? This ties in directly with the culture industry and what we prize as Americans. Islamic poet and physician Avicenna proposed the view that producing and appreciating art contributes to good citizenship and a better society. To be an enlightened citizen one would combine theoretical wisdom with inspiration, and be able to communicate this inspiration to others.
This notion is not very different than the one of today of ideally being informed about your rights and how to vote for people that are in your interests yet the type of education is different. For Avicenna, philosophy and art both have roles in the intellect. Philosophy corrects misunderstandings from outside study while art refines what you study by directing your study inward. Taking this view into the modern world philosophy helps you decipher outside information while art gives you a clue on what you should study by doing self evaluation. Framed in this way philosophy and art should be provided, at the least, to incoming and confused college students trying to figure out what to do in the next four years. Self-evaluation is something that is not stressed enough, difficult to even attempt, yet will make your life much easier after looking within yourself. Participating and looking at art is a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t like. Making art shouldn’t constrain you within boundaries of form, composition, etc. in your first try! Make it simple and allow yourself to play and explore which medium you have, whether it be pencil, chalk, clay, or even paint. Part of getting in touch with yourself is to actually know the feeling of play and exploration, especially in our society where play is associated with ‘childishness’ and ‘immaturity’. Looking at art can be an exercise in admiring form in one work to observing what you see in another. Each work of art is different and many different components come into play when you observe and appreciating art, which is a way to learn to explore your subconscious self.
At times making and appreciating art can bring out some illogical feelings out of even the most logical of us. Not all works of art are going to make you feel good about life or the human experience. Even Adorno acknowledges that art exposes the difference in what is part of human nature and the lives that people build, and this difference can violently clash. American society is full of paradoxes. We advertise sex on many television shows yet tell children stories about storks and birds & bees. We label this country as the land of opportunity yet will not be brave enough to admit that there are systematic and subconscious prejudices that will keep the darker skinned population at the bottom of the barrel. Companies claim that creativity and critical thinking are prized skills yet will not help fund any programs that promote these same skills. Our society is full of paradoxes that repress the freedoms of many a little at a time yet people dare not complain because other countries have it worse and who wants to be seen as anti-American? Worst of all, repressing these emotions can lead to disasters and many physical and mental problems. For some art is a mode of expression and life—it gives the troubled child something to look forward to other than grief and strife. It give the adult a way to make a positive mark on this world. Art gives those who are broken and healing a way to be thankful for another day. This is a form of communication and the song, poem, picture, or dance you create out of emotion and energy has the potential to connect with another person who is going through a similar problem without ever asking for your help. From depression to war to personal destruction art allows us to unbottle the hurtful side of human nature so it will not fester. What is better for society than all-around healthy adults that can feel and communicate with peace of mind? The value is not monetary but rather it is intrinsic to human nature.
This section is for those who are wealthy enough to afford the medium to high priced artworks that people love to buy. Not because of yet certainly affected by the cuts of programs artists that are making and circulating art may start to diminish in the future. This will raise the scarcity of works since less and less people are making them available for purchase by the public. The pinch will also be felt by the artists, since people will look for particular themes and buy less (due to prices, societal opinion, or just not being interested). Adorno especially criticized the overly hedonistic bourgeois life that art can fall as wanting art that pleases the eye instead of engaging the mind. He would rather have art that forces the viewer to take a hard look at life instead of glossing over this world’s troubles for something artificial. The appeal of art brings others closer and closer yet by making art a commodity, such as we have in our new technological age, people will fear the loss of art because of this twisted relationship. Art becomes reduced to just property that can be collected, bought, and destroyed with the flick of the human fancy. Van Gogh’s Starry Night is a beautiful work of Impressionist art that has been plastered everywhere by museums, chain stores, and just about anyone else for the purpose pleasing the eye while advertising some service or product. The actual relationship with the work of art has been pressed and dried into just pleasure for soothing the sting of life and to promote another monetary agenda. The scarcity of masterpieces give a reason for museums and collectors to collect works from earlier times. The experience of going into a museum is quiet, serene, and certainly bourgeois. On the silent walls carefully preserved pieces hang, telling their ancient secrets to a modern audience. Some will pause to admire the craftsmanship, some will take turns contemplating their lives, and others will head straight to the gift shop. Most museums do charge a fee to admire these works with special events going throughout the year. This art is great for us to have on display, yet not everyone can take the privilege of seeing works in person.
Art has many different forms that are, in my opinion, undervalued today. Adorno calls into question modern art, which would describe the artistic era of today. He dismisses the dignity of modern art, claiming it has to pose as something it is not. Modern art is by far the least clear of the artistic eras, since there are so many techniques and tools available today that almost anything can be created. Original ideas can even trump original creation with the movement of the remixes. In this place where so much information is available to be consumed, anything is possible. I have to disagree with Adorno in that this era gains its dignity through its diverse use of styles and techniques. I do admit that making something amidst so many possibilities can be nerve wrecking yet this potential ability should be embraced to shape the world in which we live. We have the potential to clothe the world with art that challenges the status quo or art that just provides a sad relief to problems we are too afraid to solve.
This era allows many to claim the title ‘artist’ by way of various mediums. In the age of so much potential creation, the dignity of modern art is found. For Kim Grant, the modern artist’s identity has shifted from skilled maker to expressive hobbyist. This shift in identity can be a potential problem, since making the distinction between an hobbyist ‘artist’ and a professional ‘artist’ starts to blur. The representation of the work in the modern artist becomes a way to express individuality in an age full of individuals. Does this perhaps washes out the real identity of the artist, or does this age strengthen the pigment that are artists? Perhaps both are done at the same time, since the world can now be full of ‘artists’—this title can now apply to anyone at anytime. The duty of modern artists is to create from what life supplies, to use that creative power for an improved state of living.
The state of art today hangs on by an uncertain future and an enriching past. Especially in the age of cutting back art programs and where the prices of art schools are skyrocketing, I hope that art will live on the in the lives of the majority instead of being pushed away. The relationship of society and art, as well as artists, will ultimately decide what happens to art itself as human progress moves forward.
 Sources that will be used: Kant, Immanuel, and Werner S. Pluhar. Critique of Judgment. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Pub., 1987. Print. Adorno, Theodor W., and Gretel Adorno. “On the Relation of Art and Society, Art and Philosophy.” Aesthetic Theory. London: Continuum, 2002. Print. Azadpur, Mohammad, and Anita Silvers. “Avicenna on Education in Philosophy and Art.” Arts Education Policy Review 107.2 (2005): 35-9. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. Wilks, J. F. (2006). A portrait of the person as an ancient artist. Evangelical Quarterly, 78(1), 51-64., Grant, Kim. “‘Paint And Be Happy’: The Modern Artist And The Amateur Painter-A Question Of Distinction.” Journal Of American Culture 34.3 (2011): 289-303.Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
 Kant 172.
 Adorno 8.
 Adorno 9.
 Adorno 9.
 Adorno 45.
 Adorno 16.
 Azadpur, Mohammad. “Avicenna on Education in Philosophy and Art”.
 Adorno 16.
 Adorno 13.
 Adorno 39.
 Grant, Kim. “‘Paint And Be Happy”.