What is art? I believe it is a form of expression, usually physical in nature. Painters use watercolors, illustrators use pens and pencils, sculptors use clay… I generally search for an emotion; something the artist may have been feeling while creating a piece.

Emotion is easily detectable in music. A slow, mellow song can convey sadness or tranquility, but it can largely depend upon the lyrics that accompany the instrumentals. Words– for the most part –are not provided along with gallery pieces, so it is up to the person examining a piece to determine not only the meaning, but the emotion as well. A work of art cannot be emotionless. That would be to say art is unexpressive and cold when, in actuality, it has been a “craft of passion” for centuries.

The New International Webster’s Student Dictionary of the English Language—the closest dictionary I could find in my expansive Victorian mansion—defines art as, “1. The ability of a man to arrange or adapt natural things or conditions to his own uses. * 2. The creation of works that are, in form, content, and execution, esthetically pleasing and meaningful, as in music, painting, sculpture, literature, dance, etc. 3. The principles and techniques governing the creation of such works. 4. The works so created, esp. painting, drawings, and sculptures. 5. Skilled workmanship; craft. 6. Any specific skill, craft, trade, or profession: the art of cooking; a teacher’s art. 7. Printing any illustrative or decorative material that accompanies the text. 8. Usu. pl. The liberal arts. 9. Craft; cunning. 10. Usu. pl. A trick, stratagem, or wile. –adj. Of or for artists or their works,” or “Archaic or poetic second person singular tense of BE: used with thou.”

Thus, I’m an artist. You’re an artist, probably… But probably not. I must add: I’m full of it. I’m no artist. I consider myself a writer in training. I have never taken an art history course, so I know little of its history, and I don’t have the skill to make connections between contemporary and classical. I have always had an interest, however.

Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, stated in his essay “What is Art?” that “in order to correctly define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. Viewing it in this way we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man.”

Contemporary artists–whether street artists or graduate students whose gallery shows convey personal, visual manifestos—speak to me more deeply than the portraits and landscapes painted by Van Gogh. Van Gogh is one of my favorites, but his paintings show people and social environments of his time, not ours (college-aged individuals). An art major once said to me many contemporary painters/illustrators seek reaction. This is because it is no longer enough to just paint something beautiful and be finished with it. There is no message in doing so. Social dilemmas, modern psychology, futurist philosophy… All themes that appear frequently in the works of contemporary artists. Conversation of these topics is opened up and discussed thanks to such practices. In my eyes, that is a very good thing.

In the posts that will invade this fine manifesto I will highlight artists–sticking to painters and illustrators rather than musicians–around Anchorage, Alaska. Whether they will fit my definition or any of Webster’s definitions is questionable.

*I guess when this specific dictionary was published in 1997 the people at Webster’s didn’t think females where skilled in the stated capability. In fact, I know they didn’t. Trust me, we’re close friends.


Art thou interested in art?

Is Stan Lee an artist? Is Yoko Ono an artist?

What is your definition of art?

If you like art, have you ever been referred to as a hipster?