Good Art is Pure Art

I was reading an excerpt from Plato’s ‘The Republic’ this afternoon when I came across a rather interesting point. Socrates was defining what a good political leader should look like and he simply said that a leader should not be focused on money or honor or power, but instead on how they can best serve their subjects. If a leader is focused on things such as these, he does absolutely nothing for his people, because he only accomplishes what is in his own best interest. I see this to be true with art as well (‘art’ encompassing everything from writing, filmmaking, acting, composing and the typical use of the word). Whereas some artists focus more on their own career than the message they are conveying, or the people they are reaching, you lose the greatness that coincides with purity.

I have often wondered where the valued and treasured artists are in our modern world. I visit bookstores, entertainment stores and museums quite often and I can’t help but consider how these various and numerous artists will stand the test of time. I find myself questioning which musicians are today’s Beethovens and Handels, which writers compare with Shakespeare and which philosophers (if they even exist anymore) measure up against Locke and Hobbes. Will the Beatles remain iconic of the seventies and will Spielberg still be considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time in a few decades? I have learned from a wise professor of mine that you do not know how influential something has been until 10 to 20 years have passed and we look retrospectively at the incident or creation. I believe there is a lot of truth in this judgment; we truly do not know how something will impact mankind until the impacting has come to completion.

Why does it so often seem that our generation has degraded the worth of literature and art? I think Socrates hit a strong point in saying that the worth of a leader lies in how he provides for his subjects. Artists should be judged under the same light. I could sit here and name over one hundred musical artists, hundreds of films and dozens of books, writers and artists that exist today and I would not even begin to scratch the surface of all the art that has been produced over the last ten years. How do we separate the good from the bad, and then the better from the best? I guess the simple answer to this question should be viewed as this: good art is pure art.

From now on I challenge reader’s to judge not only the form of art, whether it be a book, painting, film or song; but also judge the character of the artist. Are these artists more concerned with the message their creation will have, or more concerned with making money and gaining individual power? Are the musicians and filmmakers truly concerned with the moral of their songs and movies, or are they just striving for one more hit single or one more blockbuster? There was once a filmmaker, forgive me for not remembering his name, who said: “I don’t want it to look good, I want it Tuesday.” This mentality has seemingly begun to dominate the market of artistic domain. If we begin to value quantity over quality then we have corrupted art into nothing more than another book on the shelf and another painting in a coffee shop.

I believe that men such as Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Martin Luther, Da Vinci and Van Gough were not concerned nearly as much with their self-gain as they were with their product. They wanted to write because they loved writing, they sculpted and painted because they believed that all men have talents that can speak to others. This is the purest form of art as I see it. Of course there will be the occasional Charles Dickinson and Chaucer who will fall through the cracks gaining power and money while still getting their message across. But what we should look for in art is the purity that only comes from humility and reaching out to fans, readers and admirers.

From this afternoon forward, I will begin to discern not only how well a movie was made, how well a book was written or how much time was spent on a painting. I will begin to learn more of the story behind each piece of art, learning to appreciate it more and hopefully learn that great artists come through purity, and not a sense of self-gain. This is how we know what good art really is, and this is how we know that an artist actually deserves the appreciation they receive.

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