The Way of Beauty: Five Meditations for Spiritual Transformation
by François Cheng
François Cheng is a Chinese-French writer who references art and language from both cultures as well as Taoism in his discussion of beauty. Cheng presents some interesting ideas, particularly in the fourth and fifth meditations, within an overall esoteric and meandering text.
My favorite thought from this book is the idea of beauty as an experience as opposed to an attribute. “True beauty does not reside only in what is already manifest as beauty… It is a becoming, and the dimension of spirit or soul is vital to it… Beauty is always a becoming, an advent, if not to say an epiphany… Beauty implies interconnectedness, interaction, an encounter between the elements that constitute an occurrence of beauty, between the beauty present and the gaze that beholds it.” Continue reading
The Truth About Art: Reclaiming Quality
by Patrick Doorly
“A bad work of art is an oxymoron, like bad skill,” writes Patrick Doorly, art history professor at Oxford University. “Art is high-quality endeavor.”
“Quality is not a thing but an event. When the subject [viewer] becomes aware of the object [art], quality describes the relationship that binds them… Beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder, but that eye and the mind behind it form one half of the dynamic relationship we experience as beauty.”
The quality experience is preverbal. “It operates prior to intellectualization.”
The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson
This book explores the enjoyment of viewing art within the framework of flow, the psychology of optimal experience. Flow is an intrinsically rewarding feeling of total involvement in an activity. To be fully engaged in a state of flow, one must be skilled and challenged. The author studied museum professionals as a proxy for the more general art viewing population.
“The experience is one of an initial perceptual hook followed by a more detached, intellectual appreciation that returns the viewer to the work with a deeper understanding.”
“The best examples of objects containing such challenges are works whose meaning appears to be inexhaustible.” As one respondent put it, “‘A good painting will never be used up.’”
Four dimensions of aesthetic experience are explored: cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and communicative.
Art in the Age of Emergence
by Michael J. Pearce
Michael J. Pearce is an art professor who experienced a light bulb moment when he attended a talk in the philosophy department on the topic of emergence by guest speaker Philip Clayton. “Emergence, which describes the characteristics of forms that come out of complex systems, could apply especially well to how we experience art, how we understand aesthetics in relation to our evolving mind, and how we understand the creative process of making representational art… I suddenly realized that considering the relationship between emergence and consciousness could lead to a description of what distinguishes art objects from other things as we perceive them through our senses. Emergence allows us to define art!”
This book presents an interesting framework for thinking about art, although it is written in a dense academic style. Continue reading
What Art Is
by Arthur C. Danto
The dust jacket sums up Arthur Danto’s definition of art nicely. “A work of art is always defined by two essential criteria: meaning and embodiment, as well as one additional criterion contributed by the viewer: interpretation.” Continue reading