Goals for “What is Art”:

  • Consider the origins of art
  • Explore a brief history of Western Art
  • Examine multiple perspectives for evaluating art


What is Art For?

The article we were assigned to read for this week “What is art for” by Ellen Dissanayake informed me about different ways art was used and defined throughout history.  Ellen first goes into detail giving a definition about how art is, “a kind of behavior that developed as they evolved to help them survive.” (16)  I think that Ellen is trying to explain that as time went on the definition of art kept developing as more art and knowledge developed.  Even today people have to do a lot of research to try and get the changes in the definition of art as time went on.  During the medieval time art was used as, “service of religion…” (16).  During this time it seemed like art was all about trying to show religion and promote Christianity.  I remember learning about the art during medieval times to be centered around god.  As the eighteenth century came along Ellen explains how important it was, “The eighteenth century is recognized today as having been a fiscal point in which a number of social and intellectual trends came together, intertwined and influenced one another…” (16).  During this time there were five important and unprecedented changes that made this time such a focal point.  These five changes were; “gradual secularization of society, rise of science, social interpersonal changes, emphasis on reason, and great political revolutions in America and France.”  (17)  All of these factors seemed to help the development of art during this time.  As we got into Postmodernism art was interpreted as, “art reflects a unique and privileged kind of knowledge… Artists  just like everybody else, do not see the world in any singularly privileged or objectively truthful way, but rather like everybody- interpret it according to their individual and cultural sensibility.” (19)  This is actually a very accurate perspective because I think that people can think of art as many different things, and it really just depends on the persons personal values and ideas.  Lastly art is seen to be used as rituals and ceremonies.  I believe this to be true because as we look at it today things like weddings and funerals where it seems like everything about these things have art involved with it.  Art has developed throughout history and I think it will continue to develop.  There is no true definition of what art it, and I don’t think there will ever be a true definition.


Art to me is something that can’t really be explained.  As Dissanayake explains, art is, “a kind of behavior that developed and as they evolved to help them survive.” (16 Dissanayake).  This is explaining how art has changed so much, and that means the definition has changed as well.  During that time though art helped people survive, and was a way of living.  It is so interesting to see how art really changed the culture of living, and how the definition is constantly being developed.

I chose to do my artifact on, “What is Art” because I still struggle to truly define what art is.  I think my working definition of art right now is anything that touches your emotions.  I think that this definition works because when people make art, they are putting their emotions and feeling into it, and if it hits your emotions it must be considered art.  I never really realized how broad the definition of art is, and I really think that one day there will be a real definition of what art is.



 Future Intentions:

My future intentions for this is to find a true definition for art.  This is something that will take a lot of time and effort because there is no real working definition of art, and almost anything can technically be considered art.  I will continue to examine things, and base my definition of art to classify certain things as art.


Dissanayake, E. (1991). What is art for? In K. C. Caroll (Ed.). Keynote adresses 1991 (NAEA Convention), (pp.15-26). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

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