Questions about Art and Critique

This post is simply a list of questions to consider when addressing the topic of art making and critique/criticism.

  • Are there artistic values and standards that apply to all forms of art?
  • Can those values and standards be articulated and meaningfully discussed?
  • Are there values and standards within a particular discipline (painting, acting, etc.) that are identifiable, unique, and agreed upon within that field?
  • Do the values and standards of a given field apply equally to various “classes” of art, such as “fine” art, “popular” art, “folk” art, “amateur” art, or “professional” art?
  • Do the values and standards of a given field apply equally across styles (realism, idealism, classical, baroque, American Musical Theatre…name your stylistic difference.)
  • What are the critic’s pre-assumptions concerning artistic values and standards?
  • Which of those pre-assumptions do you agree with?
  • Do the artistic values and standards of an international center (New York, Beijing, London, Moscow) apply to those working in the same field in regional and rural settings?
  • How do the various purposes of art making within a given particular context impact the use of critique and evaluation?
  • What is the point of critique and evaluation, anyway?
  • What is the role of self-critique and self-awareness in the creation of increasingly vibrant, relevant, and helpful work?
  • What is the point of trying to create “better” work than before?
  • What are the spiritual implications of living with the tensions of critique, both public and private?
  • Do the gatekeepers (critics, experts, leaders in a field of expertise) of a particular domain or discipline have a legitimate function, or are they merely extensions of a class-based call to power?
  • To what degree is criticism inherent in the act of making and distributing/displaying/performing art forms?
  • What is the personal responsibility of the artist in confronting the dangers and vulnerabilities inherent in bringing their art to a public?
  • How do we take the conversation regarding art making and art receiving beyond the point of “Did you like it?”  and “It’s just your opinion?”
  • Does anyone care about the conversation regarding artistic values and standards?   Should we?

That’s enough to drive your coffee conversations for awhile.   Add your own questions, as well as any references that might be helpful in sorting all this out.  Truth is, the questions may sound rather esoteric, but those of us who make art deal with them in the most practical terms every day.

As Cervantes tells his servant as they exit the prison…

“Courage…”

3 Comments

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  1. I will ponder your questions. In the meantime I offer this:

    A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing.
    ::: William Dobell :::

    This is why I like Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Garth Brooks, Chopin and Earl Scruggs. They all brought something original, something distinctly them and no other, to the table.

  2. I am not a qualified critic. What I learn from Jesus is that pleasing God is much more satisfying and rewarding than trying to please people. Too much talent and inspiration has been squelched by the debilitating thought, “What will the neighbors think?”

  3. The opinions of informed critics can be helpful or hurtful to personal growth, as well as to one’s ego. Striving to please God by listening to and yielding to His Holy Spirit is infinitely more rewarding and satisfying, both in life and in art. Jesus is our perfect, victorious example.

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