Essay: The Trouble With the Term Art by Carolyn Dean

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  • Subject area(s): Photography and arts essays
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  • Published on: January 13, 2020
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  • The Trouble With the Term Art by Carolyn Dean
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“The Trouble With the Term Art”

In this article “The Trouble with the Term Art” by author Carolyn Dean, their are numerous thesis’s on the insight of artists meaning of art. Dean begins her argument by stating, “what is currently called today as art was not initially meant to be art.” Basically stating, the art we currently view, isn’t what the initial art form was meant to be. The author backs her statement by stating what many historians and anthropologists have been arguing over. The term called primitive, a rather vague term, basically refers to cultural and tribal artifacts. However, the author began to state her true purpose of this article, which defines art as a more vague term than primitive art, but the goal the author is trying to make remained the same in dissecting the meaning of art from opinions of artist, artwork, and even what art means to her.

To support her opinion, the author initially looks to Shelly Errington’s editorial, “What Became Authentic Primitive Art?” however; this seemed to be pointless because Dean’s main objective was not to discuss authentic primitive art, but just art as a whole. Errington’s piece went off the topic of primitive art into art itself, and then back into primitive art as she supports her claim when she began to discuss what was accepted in the Western countries as art.

Dean’s thesis points out her purpose of writing this article to point out what is and isn’t considered art.. She continues her disagreement about the naming of art by backing up her claim with a video she shows to all of her classes. In the video an archaeologist is examining a piece of art made by the Mayans, he explains the nice craftsmanship and detail as a way of raising the “wow” factor of the piece to the audience as if they cant already see the detail themselves. Errington refutes this by explaining that “by identifying the carved flint as art, he tells us nothing about the ancient Maya; he rather tells us how he values the flint in relation to other extracted things.” Basically stating that just because he explains the look of a piece of art, doesn’t make it truly art in Deans eyes.

The writer’s message becomes a bit clearer when she begins to offer a solution to the problem of art naming. Hayden White offers a type of solution by stating “The author challenges us to see things from a different point of view” which can be perceived as stating that instead of criticizing what one may call art and what the other might not call art, why don’t we just accept the creativity of art for it simply being there in existence rather than just not having art at all. This relates to the society we live in today because a lot of times we get caught up in arguing over simple material things such as money, cars, clothes, etc. when we simply need to accept and appreciate each other’s existence. I know at times I personally get caught up in doing so when I just need to appreciate someone or something for simply being there in existence. Art can be perceived as many things from many different people. Not all art is defined as a sculpture or a painting or a drawing. Art can be acted out, sung out, expressed out, in so many different ways and not just the ways one individual might perceive it. However, in general I feel we should stop trying to put certain labels on what types of art this or that falls under, and take a step back to appreciate art as a whole.

I don’t believe the author was trying to convince us to go to one side or the other, but I believe she was trying to get us to see that we don’t need to put a certain label on what one might call art. She was willing to present others opinions even if they opposed her own to show that she was not bias towards just showing her side of the argument. To each opposing point she brought up, she accurately presented evidence or an opinion stating how she opposed that, and explain what she felt towards that. She never stated “You should believe my opinion because….”, she kind of left that up to the readers of the article.

In conclusion I believe Carolyn Dean did a fantastic job of presenting her thesis on “The Trouble With the Term Art” by not only presenting what she felt, but backing it up with claims, statements, and evidence. I never felt as if she specifically tried to sway the audience to one side or the other, but she made accurate statements and opinions and let the audience run with what they believed. I am in full agreement with her by stating that we should not categorize what the term “art” covers. I believe art means something different to each individual person.

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