What is Art Anyway? and Why Fashion Design Qualifies

I know I’ve written before about art and fashion design, but I want to talk even more about it. There’s so much to say on the subject of art! As a model, actor, and producer, I find myself musing about it from time to time.

Here’s my current reflection – what is art anyway? I’d say it’s essentially an expression of the human imagination about anything human beings might encounter in life: ideas, images, emotions, situations, or whatever. Art, unlike math and science, communicates primarily through feelings and the senses, rather than through rational thought. This is as true of the performing arts as it is of graphic art and sculpture. Moreover, it seems that all of the forms of expression we call “art” originated in the realm of religion in every group’s history. This is when all of life was experienced as sacred and full of spirits that could help us or harm us.

Artistic expression apparently began as forms of worship and ways of propitiating spirit(s) to help us survive. Because art is essentially an expression of the imagination, it isn’t necessary for it to manifest as some concrete product. Expression can remain at the level of pure concept. Since human beings are prone to making things, it will usually manifest as one sort of tangible object or another, be it a poem, ceremonial mask, musical instrument, music, dance, painting, a building, bridge, a totem, or a garment for the human body, etc.!

Some people think there is a qualitative difference between “pure” art – or art that is produced strictly according to what personally inspires the artist and art produced to serve a functional purpose. I think that distinction is silly and promotes a certain elitism. Both, a product that is constructed as the result of an inner impulse on the part of the artist and a product which serves an external purpose, can equally inspire in their execution and require just as much passion and skill. I don’t think it matters very much whether the artist takes his/her assignment from an internal or an external directive. It’s what the artist does with the directive that matters.

Some people will protest that fashion design lacks the value dimension of “pure” art. I’m not sure about that. Fashion design reflects the values and social changes occurring in any given era. While the actual creations of the great fashion designers are expensive and therefore, can only be bought by wealthy people, knock-offs are created at every price level. Besides, much of the art you’ll see in museums was commissioned by the wealthy folks of earlier eras to celebrate their extravagance.

Let me know your thoughts on this subject!

Claudia MasonComment