SHERIDAN — What is art? How are its parameters defined? Should parameters even exist?
The Sheridan Press asked several people in the local art community to gain some insight into the broad topic.
Brittney Denham-Whisonant, Sheridan College printing and photography instructor, described art as “a visual, musical or performative act for the larger world to see.”
Denham-Whisonant also said art involves a person or people sharing something with others.
Sheridan High School art teacher Bob Hanchett said the beauty of art involves different pieces containing different meanings to different people. He said definitions depend on the context in which art appears.
Professional artist Arin Waddell also said context is everything when evaluating art. Artistic views are shaped by a person’s upbringing, education and experiences.
Waddell said art ideally makes a person think and feel.
“Sometimes [art] can be so powerful it changes not just intellect but emotional growth,” Waddell said.
Similarly, SAGE Community Arts executive director Kate Harrington mentioned that art should challenge someone but also evoke emotion.
Harrington wasn’t particularly interested in art growing up, but after visiting several exhibits as an adult it had a visceral connection to her.
“I didn’t even realize I liked art,” Harrington said. “I just suddenly saw it and it resonated in me. It stirred me.”
Matthew Campbell, a tattoo artist at Forever Flawless, said he doesn’t put limitations on art.
“I don’t think it’s something that can be defined,” Campbell said. “… (It is) something that evokes feelings, and everybody’s feelings are different.”
Campbell said he has come to that realization over the past 20 years while working as an artist. Campbell said there are things he considers less artistic than others, but nothing that is particularly not artistic.
“Art can be found in everything,” Campbell said.
Waddell said she would probably make a distinction between utility and artistic merit. Campbell agreed and said there are things he views more as a craft than an art, but he realizes he might not be correct.
“Everybody sees it their own way,” Campbell said. “I’ve had arguments with people that craft is completely different than being an artist. You’re just making crafts (by) gluing things together, where art, I think you’re taking nothing and creating it into something.”
For the average person, Waddell would encourage them to be more open and willing to consider works that are not outwardly pretty or perfect. It could broaden a conversation.
“I would want people to be open to learning more,” Waddell said. “What often happens is people walk in and say, ‘I don’t get it. I don’t like it.’”
Waddell said framing is vital when trying to understand art because the same material can be used for entirely separate purposes. A piece of clay, for example, can help build a home or create a sculpture.
Waddell said art can be fun to think about and deconstruct with the proper amount of time, but that takes effort.
“It’s like solving really complex puzzles,” Waddell said. “… The joy of playing that game and trying to figure out the puzzle was so fun.”
Anything could technically be considered art. Denham-Whisonant believes a decent argument could be made for any object to have artistic merit. Waddell said if someone wants to stack a few pebbles on top of one another and call it art, she won’t argue.
“I guess I really struggle when it’s put on a pedestal and there has not been the hard work that needs to go into it, but it’s not my job to say it’s not art,” Waddell said. “… I’m not going to fight you on it, because guess what? It’s too exhausting.”
Denham-Whisonant said all types of art are connected.
Similarly, Harrington doesn’t differentiate between art mediums.
“Anything that resonates with me — whether it’s music or dance or paintings or photography or sculpture or little kid’s art — if it touches something in me, then it’s all the same in terms of how much I love it,” Harrington said.
Harrington doesn’t place value judgments on works of art, either.
“I don’t know what good or bad art is, and I always say there is no good or bad art,” Harrington said. “It’s just what resonates with you. If you feel something when you look at something and it resonates with you, then that’s your art that you appreciate, whatever that is.”
Opinions differ on what constitutes art and how to separate good and bad art, but perhaps that is the point.