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What defines art? Who determines what is art and what isn’t art? Why are dots sometimes more valuable than portraits, while sculptures of giant titanium screws can out-match the classics? These are questions we’ve asked over time that may never truly have a diplomatic answer. But just because I can, I’ll let you in on how I feel about it, my answers to these questions and in a round-about way why timeless art is never on time.


No matter where you look, you will find a large number of outrageous positions on what constitutes art. From art buyers to amateur collectors, you can be sure to find a wealth of opinions that sometimes eloquently describe classical art and at other times brazenly trample upon the ancient masterpieces. Of course it can be easier for some to understand the debate of “what is or isn’t art” when we are discussing the abstract expressionist, but “who decides?” is the real question. To answer this, we need to look no further than the most reflective surface we can find.


First off, I have to say that no one can idly make a claim to be able to determine what is or isn’t art. No art can be positively quantified to fit into a specific set of principles that define what is or isn’t the art in question. Art varies from person to person, from culture and history to time and space. (Yes, even space) – There is no master authority that can call anything ‘real art’ over ‘fake art’ or ‘bad art’ at all. The judgment falls solely on the observer; the person experiencing it. Art speaks to us in some way, it becomes a part of us and us a part of it. We are the true authorities, defining art based upon our own interaction with it.


So, who defines art? We do. Not the critics, masters or gallery owners – us, the observers. We determine what art is in our lives and we keep those things close to us throughout our lives. These things change as we change and evolve. Sometimes we are drawn to harsh metal and shiny silver, while other times we opt for soft tones and soothing brush strokes. What is your mood? What is happening in your life? The gallery owners and critics really do help bring that art close to us – but ultimately, we decide, which is why they made their choices to being with. Understand?


As artists, we are mired in a consistent conundrum of our own making. Sometimes we are too concerned with what others think of our art, or that by breaking rules or being different, we are somehow lesser than the masters. But isn’t it important to experiment, invent and question why we do things a certain way? Is it fear that inhibits us? Keep this in mind when you come across dots or splashes of colors you don’t understand.


Art changes with the times and time changes art. Trends come and go faster than you can read this blog and that’s ok. Art is in the eye of the beholder is it not? So the next time you come across someone that says, “That’s not art,” let him or her know that that’s their own personal opinion, and you can assure them that it is in fact, without question - art.


Remember: grow; learn; conserve; preserve; create; question; educate; change; and free your mind.

About: Kelli Klymenko is an artist, a faculty member and the Marketing & Events Coordinator at Sedona Arts Center: a gathering place where artists can learn, teach, and exhibit their works at the center’s School of the Arts and Fine Art Gallery in uptown Sedona.

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