Art for art’s sake

Krista Hanson 

Viewpoints Editor  

Art has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dad drew all the time. I have such vivid memories from going out to eat and having the children’s paper menu with its three crayons. My dad would take a crayon and make mini masterpieces next to cartoon animals and mazes.  

As a family, we’d go to museums. I remember falling in love with the interactive art in the children sections or the flower garden behind the RW Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport. I got to see different exhibits change as I grew up. Some exhibits stayed the same, but the rooms full of life like dolls no longer scared me as I got older.  

One thing stayed consistent through all these years, I was always trying to find purpose and value in the art I was seeing. There was this one room where we’d stand in front of a wall and our shadows would appear to be lagging with color exploding around us. It was fun to see but only for a few moments. I’d find myself bored and trying to figure out how it worked or why they would spend their time to power this room that no one ever stayed in too long.  

I became extremely interested in tattoos in middle school as I saw my parents and people I admired putting art on their bodies. I was encouraged to think about tattoos for a long time and give them some meaning. Even now at 20, still tattoo-less, I find myself wanting to defend the tattoos I want to get in the future. I need to justify and give meaning to art that doesn’t even exist yet.  

Even as my own artwork has moved from less painting and drawing, more into writing, I am asked to find meaning in the things I read. We analyze and find deeper explanations for other people’s writing and even our own.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love analyzing and taking text to another level. I love finding parallels between art and finding the ways metaphors are created through visual or subtle methods.  

But I don’t think art has to always be analyzed. Art doesn’t have to be philosophical or deep to have value.  

L’art pour l’art, translated from French into art for art’s sake, is the artistic philosophy that the intrinsic value of art is separate from its function. This became a bohemian creed in the 19th century in direct defiance of people who thought that art only had value for moral, didactic or political reasons.  

This declaration confirmed art was valuable simply because it is art. Artistic endeavors do not need justification to simply exist. Art can be just art.  

Even as I preach that art is important whether people give it some separate value besides its existence, it’s hard to feel this way about my own art. I’ve made myself believe that even my own work doesn’t have value without outside validation.  

However, I am lucky enough to have professors, peers and friends who understand this kind of frustration. They’ve allowed me to create art that doesn’t have to do anything except exist. I’ve been able to separate the things I create from the inherent need to give it a meaning or purpose.  

Sometimes art just needs to exist. And sometimes that’s enough.  

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