Sunday, August 19, 2012

aesthetic meaning and value in the arts

A recent discussion of whether taste in music can be judged brought these previously written paragraphs to mind, in which I talked about the aesthetic meaning and value in various arts.
"reddle" by Klaus Leontjew
Great art establishes a background which can be self-defined, or more commonly is derived from the styles, trends, and historical context of the culture. Having established a background, art builds meaning through imitation, repetition, and contrast with the background. Meaning is constructed by each person who experiences the art as they apply their own unique perspective to the background, and to the similarities and differences of the art with its background. In each person who constructs meaning in the experience, they align themselves with some elements and disassociate themselves from other elements, creating the emotional equivalence of life experiences in a safe context. This individual interaction with art enables people to find meaning in various aspects of their lives that they would have otherwise missed, so art provides an emotional mirror that individuals use to see themselves and their circumstances from a new perspective. 

Art without contrast would have no meaning, as life without pain has no joy, and perfect equality offers no beauty, no life, and no reason for the change that defines and motivates us.

Beauty does not depend solely on contrast, but rather it depends on the relationship between the contrast, the background, and the cultural context. Some of the most awe-inspiring art is very plain and simple. However, subtle meaning can be lost in a loud crass environment where sharper contrasts are generally necessary.

Examine the photograph above. What similarities do you observe in the photo? What contrasts do you observe? Did you mentally "push away" an element of the photo? What did you reject? Why did you reject it? What element did you most connect with? What message may the artist have wanted to convey? Did you connect with the author's aesthetic idea on some level? How do YOU feel?

If you learned something from this blog about the meaning in art, please make a comment so I can also learn from you. Now listen to your favorite music, and ask yourself these same questions.


Leontjew, K. (2009). Reddle. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from

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