What Makes a Great Work of Art?

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workman

Preferred Member
Jan 5, 2018
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The Faroe Islands
I agree with most everything here, especially that art and social commentary are by no means mutually exclusive. My point about political slogan graffiti was just to take the distinction between art and social commentary to its most extreme. You mentioned in your earlier comment that the “new” perspective on art is that the message is more important than the medium. I was attempting to demonstrate the flaws within that perspective.

You jab at my conservative taste with the poker-playing dogs thing, yet while I’m over here appreciating Impressionism, you’re defending graffiti puffy

Sure, graffiti can be art, like a corncob can be a pipe, but Banksy can’t be Monet. I think we should not conflate timely social commentary with skill in execution of the medium. I hope we can all agree that those are two distinct things, even if some of us hold one in higher regard than the other.
Is that a roll of toilet paper he is reaching for?
 
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workman

Preferred Member
Jan 5, 2018
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The Faroe Islands
In a word, yes. All of the people who argued that the various trends you mentioned were moving society gradually into decline were correct. It’s just a matter of incremental change, so it’s easy to say “oh don’t be a curmudgeon, it’s no big deal.” Perhaps these things were a symptom rather than a cause, but the correlation is there.

I’m sure critics of flappers in the Jazz age thought “if the kids keep this up, soon women will be running around half naked, and all the young people will be having children out of wedlock!” The counterpoint might be “oh it’s just short hair and a bit of dancing, the kids are just having fun! It’s not going to harm anything.” Yet, which prediction turned out to be most accurate?

Pliny the Elder was right. At some point, Rome stopped being Rome, although nobody who was there at the time would have been able to acknowledge it. All they could do is observe the gradual decline.

Regarding pajamas in public, if you look at photos from the Great Depression, the men in the bread lines were wearing jackets and ties. Granted, their clothing was worn and patched, but they made some effort at maintaining a sense of dignity. On the issue of dignity, and my penchant for corncob pipes :)ROFLMAO:), the distinction is that unlike crappy banana art, nobody holds cobs out as the premier essence of pipe smoking. Corncobs are like pajamas - cheap and undignified yet very comfortable, and best suited to the privacy of your (really, my) own homepuffy

Ultimately, at some point, all civilizations lose steam and then decline. Maybe the things I’m complaining of are more the symptom than cause, and perhaps are simply unavoidable, but I dislike them all the same because I dislike what they represent. Oswald Spengler wrote far more eloquently about it than I ever could, and there was another once-prominent historian, Toynbee as I recall, who further developed those ideas. However, this Spenglerian cyclical theory of civilizations that ebb and flow in a consistent and predictable manner has over the past decades given way to a “directional” view of history which is ultimately rooted in the Marxist theory of historical materialism, which is the frame of reference when someone talks about being “on the right side of history.” Again I digress into the margins of the political, but suffice it to say that the postmodern stuff is no random development, and it has everything to do with how the thought leaders of our society shape our collective perspective of ourselves and the world and our place in it.
What if all this art that you don't like isn't the driver of decline but only the mirror.
 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Helena, Alabama
What if all this art that you don't like isn't the driver of decline but only the mirror.
No, I like to think that a 20something with a banana and some duct tape has the power to bring down the continuation of Western Civilization as we know it. These kids today just need to learn to balance power with responsibility. If they keep this up, we’ll be living in caves and bashing each other with stick in about 500 more years. Damn bananas!!! puffy
 

lawdawg

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Aug 25, 2016
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Well, as @cosmicfolklore will concur, the men and women of the antebellum period of the South were very well dressed. Very moral and ethical about one's word and reputation - and a handshake meant something. Just long as you didn't look out back. Our founding fathers paid a lot of attention to their clothes and guaranteed the rights of property owners, so long as the ownership of the property didn't predate their arrival.

What I am getting at is that judging a society on its outward appearances, even for me, and I am fairly shallow, is .... are am I missing the point.

The mere fact that societies of the past that practiced decorum and manners also had flaws and problems does not mean that there is not value in decorum and manners.

If the standard is that anything we want to emulate or lionize must be perfect and without flaws, then we can never have any heroes, or even role models.
 
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telescopes

Preferred Member
The mere fact that societies of the past that practiced decorum and manners also had flaws and problems does not mean that there is not value in decorum and manners.

If the standard is that anything we want to emulate or lionize must be perfect and without flaws, then we can never have any heroes, or even role models.
Agreed. i don’t think anyone here disputes that. I do, however, fail to see causation between the refined trappings of refined society and its moral and ethical quality.

Does the former create and cause the later?
 
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lawdawg

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Aug 25, 2016
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Agreed. i don’t think anyone here disputes that. I do, however, fail to see causation between the refined trappings of refined society and its moral and ethical quality.

Does the former create and cause the later?

In a word, yes. For example, there is a reason schools required (and sometimes still require) uniforms. There are a number of studies showing that students in uniform perform and behave better. People tend to rise to the occasion, so yes, having standards makes us generally better.

Honestly, I think what is being projected by some here is a support of classist notions that do more damage to society than good.

A general expectation that each person put his best foot forward is not classist or any other allegedly discriminatory “ist.”
 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
26,239
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Helena, Alabama
I love how when you ask about what art you like, the fate of the world gets argued. But, if I had asked about your favorite song, people would have posted multiple youtubes, without a single dispute.

I don’t think pictures are really more powerful than music. People will pay a cover to see any ol garage cover band playing at a bar, but if every museum charged admission the buildings would be empty.
 
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sablebrush52

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Jun 15, 2013
13,866
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SoCal
jrs457.wixsite.com
’m sure critics of flappers in the Jazz age thought “if the kids keep this up, soon women will be running around half naked, and all the young people will be having children out of wedlock!” The counterpoint might be “oh it’s just short hair and a bit of dancing, the kids are just having fun! It’s not going to harm anything.” Yet, which prediction turned out to be most accurate
Actually, the former. The latter has been going on for a hundred generations. If people are telling the truth, a proposition in itself questionable, about 50% of the population cheats on their spouses.

Everything mutates, from atoms to dead galaxies and beyond. Change is a constant built into nature.

I think that we have much graver existential threats to civilization than Banksy's oeuvre, one of them being the annunciation and ascension of magical thinking and the demonization of critical thinking and all that stems from that.

Personally, I'm not an artist that disdains technical mastery. To fully express the idea that the object represents, to my mind, requires developed technique. I also can enjoy and appreciate work that isn't trying to present some grand philosophical statement, just enjoying it as it appears to me.
 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
26,239
30,677
Helena, Alabama
Personally, I'm not an artist that disdains technical mastery. To fully express the idea that the object represents, to my mind, requires developed technique. I also can enjoy and appreciate work that isn't trying to present some grand philosophical statement, just enjoying it as it appears to me.
Me too, exactly. I think of the conceptual stuff to be like calculus. I understand it, and can use it, but I can think of a million more fun ways to spend an evening.
 

telescopes

Preferred Member
In a word, yes. For example, there is a reason schools required (and sometimes still require) uniforms. There are a number of studies showing that students in uniform perform and behave better. People tend to rise to the occasion, so yes, having standards makes us generally better.



A general expectation that each person put his best foot forward is not classist or any other allegedly discriminatory “ist.”
This is something I do have experiences that are informative.

School uniforms - I was a proponent for over 30 years and still am.

More than half that time was spent in schools with uniforms. Did they impact student behavior and performance...?

Nominally. Remember, causation, not correlation.

The real causation between student performance and uniforms manifested itself ONLY when a particular school maintained contractual expectations with parents and families and required parents to attend PTA meeting, teacher/parent meetings, and could be enforced by removing the student from the school for failure to abide by the contract.

Yup, a small but very real measurable difference could be derived from the data.

It wasn't the uniforms, it was the parents commitment to being a partner in their children's education that made the difference.

As for your last point, there is nothing classist about expecting people to put their best foot forward.

What is classist is dictating what shoe is or is not acceptable.

I don't believe you are advocating throwing out hundreds of years of sociology research, but when people in a society have access to resources that they can use and control to move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, they tend to be... more responsible.

Dignity comes from within and can not be given. But it can be damaged and perhaps taken away.

It certainly doesn't come from suits. Just ask the majority of people on this forum... blue jeans and t-shirts if I recall from a former thread.
 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
13,866
18,215
SoCal
jrs457.wixsite.com
This is something I do have experiences that are informative.

School uniforms - I was a proponent for over 30 years and still am.

More than half that time was spent in schools with uniforms. Did they impact student behavior and performance...?

Nominally. Remember, causation, not correlation.

The real causation between student performance and uniforms manifested itself ONLY when a particular school maintained contractual expectations with parents and families and required parents to attend PTA meeting, teacher/parent meetings, and could be enforced by removing the student from the school for failure to abide by the contract.

Yup, a small but very real measurable difference could be derived from the data.

It wasn't the uniforms, it was the parents commitment to being a partner in their children's education that made the difference.

As for your last point, there is nothing classist about expecting people to put their best foot forward.

What is classist is dictating what shoe is or is not acceptable.

I don't believe you are advocating throwing out hundreds of years of sociology research, but when people in a society have access to resources that they can use and control to move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, they tend to be... more responsible.

Dignity comes from within and can not be given. But it can be damaged and perhaps taken away.

It certainly doesn't come from suits. Just ask the majority of people on this forum... blue jeans and t-shirts if I recall from a former thread.
If you watch enough British and Japanese TV Programming you soon become aware that uniforms don't guarantee much. The kids can still be little shits.

Telescopes' point about parental involvement is spot on, and is a critical truth. Both of my parents were heavily involved in being that "partner in their education". That's what matters, not a couple of yards of broadcloth. When my father went to college during the Great Depression, he sometimes had to choose between books, paper, pencils, and food. The books, paper, and pencils always won out.

The family always gathered to watch "College Bowl" every week and we were encouraged to answer the questions that were posed. My brothers could really kick ass. This instilled a love for learning, as well as a competative spirit, which served us well in our chosen fields. That love of learning has been passed on to our next generation, who are doing remarkable things with their lives. Not one of them has worn a uniform.
 

RonB

Member
Jan 17, 2021
202
755
Southeast Pennsylvania
I remember getting a four hour personalized tour of Winterthur that they used to offer years ago. It is the most amazing collection of American furniture and decorative arts in the US IMHO. It literally took my breath away. There was a light feeling in my chest that is hard to describe. Obviously that was an emotional response to what I was seeing. However I do believe art can result in an intense intellectual response too. I get that sometimes from reading a great book.

So I guess my conclusion is that great art results in an intense emotional or intellectual response.