Functions of Art – Lecture

Functions of Art Lecture

Functions of Art in culture is most often connected with paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc., but culture and art function together in ways that are not always associated.  Art is a person’s creative use of his/her imagination.  Imagination relies much on the artists’ own cultural experiences and his/her acceptance of the created product.

The picture above is the primary art piece in the famous Pantheon in Rome Italy.  What is the story in the painting?  How does it affect visitors upon entering this famous structure?  What does all of the art tell us?  not just the painting, but the columns, the colors, the use of materials for special effects, the dome?  Art interprets, expresses, and engages life, as well as culture, but not just for the artist.  For every visitor viewing an art piece has his/her own interpretation.  Art modifies, in many undefinable ways, how the artist experiences reality – and it is all accomplished in the creative process, but not without an embedded cultural footprint. Art’s cultural footprints can reveal much about the culture in which it is created.  The Pantheon is said to be the most copied and imitated of all ancient works.  Think about its cultural footprint – perhaps there are many cultural footprints that can be discovered.  If you haven’t been there, you can go there virtually online.  The following short video shows how the Pantheon was built – it is both an artistic and architectural wonder.

We are learning about functions of art.  What functions did the artists have in mind for this amazing building?  What was it supposed to tell those that visited?  What functions of culture are served for visitors – both ancient and modern?

Long ago our ancestors created art in caves, which show us sacred beings and depict animal spirits, among other things.  Art has a way of saying, “I was here.  I lived these realities.”  Art in culture helps us to see ourselves more clearly; a window into our own souls, so to speak.

Art in culture is expressed in dress, and in the ornaments we wear.  It is expressed in how we care for our children and how we furnish our surroundings.  Anciently, art objects were first utilitarian, such as baskets, bowls, and tools used for survival.  As culture evolved, art became prominent in religious rituals, celebrations, marriage, and burial rites.

Artistic patterns eventually portrayed memories and incorporated the natural world of animals, plants, mountains, forests, rivers and lakes.  Later these artistic endeavors became landscapes, architecture, and “other-worldly” portrayals of tribal stories and myths passed down through generations.  Oral histories are also a verbal art form, which written language (in the beginning) and now all kinds of media sources has made more available.

The evolution of violence in the artistic realm of movies, literature, and theater, in America and around the world, has influenced children and young adults in ways that are not yet wholly understood by the cultures in which they are being created. In the reverse, art gives expression and meaning to cultural ideas and beliefs relating to family, marriage, love, relationships, religion, kinship, ethnicity, gender, and cultural identities.

Art can reflect collective ideas and values such as the Americana art of Norman Rockwell in the two renown images below.

American Thanksgiving by
Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell’s paintings, which were featured on the covers of Saturday Evening Post magazines for years, portrayed collective ideas, social values, and concerns about discrimination, war, families, school, religion and government.

His art was almost ethnographic, extremely descriptive, but not always about beauty and pleasure. His paintings sometimes raised eyebrows relating to cultural standards for correct and appropriate behavior, such as the small African-American girl walking to school in much peril.

Verbal art can do the same in popular literature, poetry, and song.  Both visual and verbal art can preserve cultural values, as well as question those cultural customs and values.  Art expresses, while at the same time brings awareness to the needs for culture change.

In this way art, in culture, can express political themes and influence events.  It may also exhibit honor to divine beings, such as Leonardo DaVinci’s Sistine Chapel paintings in Rome.

God Touching Adam by Leonardo DaVinci

Long ago our ancestors created art in caves, which show us sacred beings and depict animal spirits.  Art has a way of saying, “I was here.  I lived these realities.”  Art in culture helps us to see ourselves more clearly; a window into our own souls, so to speak.

Painting Depicts Discrimination
in America in the 1940’s by Norman Rockwell

Art in culture is expressed in dress, and in the ornaments we wear.  It is expressed in how we care for our children and how we furnish our surroundings.  Anciently, art objects were first utilitarian, such as baskets, bowls, and tools used for survival.  As culture evolved, art became prominent in religious rituals, celebrations, marriage, and burial rites. Artistic patterns eventually portrayed memories and incorporated the natural world of animals, plants, mountains, forests, rivers and lakes.  Later these artistic endeavors became landscapes, architecture, and “other-worldly” portrayals of tribal stories and myths passed down through oral histories for generations.  Oral histories are a very valuable verbal art form, which written language as well as media sources today, have made more available.

View a contemporary art fair of New Delhi, India.  The art fair has a title of Art Matters.  You will see all kinds of artistic expressions at this art fair.  Well worth watching!

Because art does matter, the first international art fair was held in London, exhibiting and focusing on contemporary African art.  There were 70 artists from 54 countries of Africa exhibiting their work.  In this short BBC video you will only see a few of the exhibit items.  England is so full of all kinds of Western art; and this international exhibit gave Londoners and others the chance to view Afican art.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T4tDkStpDU

Please return to the course work for Lesson 2 in this series on Art and Culture.

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