The Creation of Art: A Review
The Creation of Art: New Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics edited by Berys Gaut and Paisley Livingston is a great book. As a person who loves art, I was excited to read a book dealing with art from a philosophical perspective. I was particularity impressed with the essays talking about genius and creativity. Therefore, these essays will be the focus of my review.
According to Guyer, genius is a gift for invention. This gift leads to originality in representation (Guyer116). He also claims that what the genius does is that he uses art to represent the freshness of nature (Guyer122). By stating this, I believe that he wishes us to see that when the genius uses nature as his canvas he wants whatever he paints or sculpts to be as fresh as the outdoors themselves.
I agree with Guyer’s definition of genius. A genius doesn’t just make a copy of what he sees in nature. Anyone with a small amount of artistic talent could do that. A genius seems to be able to take what he sees and shape it in such a way as to make it his or her own. For example, an artistic genius might paint a rose blue instead of red or pink. A statue may be sculpted out of gingerbread cookies instead of clay. A poem can describe the sunset as ‘rainbow sherbet melting in the sky’. Artistic genius seems to spark imagination. I also enjoyed the way he described Kant’s view of what a successful work of art entails. A piece of artwork qualifies as a success when it brings human beings pleasure because its form and content starts a free play with our imagination and understanding (Guyer 127). This makes sense because some of the poetry that I write is inspired by what Kant calls ‘successful artwork’. For example, the first time I saw Van Gough’s “Starry Night”, I wrote a poem entitled “Imagine the Night Sky.”
I also like the fact that Cohen states that human beings who appreciate fine art must posses a bit a genius (Cohen 145). This is because it seems that we are geniuses when we can appreciate Shakespeare or Van Gough. It seems that being a genius isn’t ass hard as first appears. It seems that all it takes to be a genius is the ability to change the ordinary or the ability to appreciate the extraordinary. However, it is unclear what it takes to be an appreciator of fine art or to have something labeled an appreciator of fine art. It is also unclear how much an artist must change something to be called a genius. Therefore, being labeled a genius isn’t a clear cut decision. In other words, many factors may play a part in being labeled a genius.
Olsen does good job talking about creativity. I like the way that he uses Shakespeare to describe what poets do. Shakespeare claims that a poet’s pen “gives to an airy nothing a place and a name” (Olsen 192). This description reminds me of Plato. According to Plato, the Muses are vital to poets: “If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects to become an adequate poet by acquiring expert knowledge of the subject without the Muses’ madness, he will fail” (Phdr 245a). The Muses seem to help the poet’s pen give life to nothing.
The discussion of the creative personality is provocative. Creative people may have non-conventional thoughts. This may be due to a need to resist being mainstreamed on society. A creative person wishes to give into his or her own unique nature (Olsen 196). I think that a creative person can have a unique nature and still create a painting, poem, or short story using a very structured regimen. In other words, creativity doesn’t have to give way to convention and structure. One thing that a creative person might create is a fictional character. However, many philosophers have argued that fictional characters can’t be created. I don’t agree with the idea that fictional characters have no reality at all. It makes more sense to believe that fictional characters come into being only because of the mental and physical acts of an author. Because of this, fictional characters have become part of most cultures.
While most of this book was informative and interesting, one essay that I read was boring. The essay deals with the origins of creativity. The explanations of the origins of creativity are cognitive, biological, and social. The argument seems to be that creativity comes from all three sources. This comes as no surprise to me. In addition, the biological portion of the essay was a bit confusing.
This book is worth reading because it stimulates and educates readers. Also, it has put art in a new perspective for me. For the most part, people will not need a background in art to understand and enjoy this book; therefore, I recommend this book.