A Word About Artistic Quality

Lately, I’ve been observing our world with regard to quality, and the scale of stark minimalism versus inflated expense. You see, without thoughtful measurement of quality, we lose the entire point of art.

I can wander through a fifteen-room home and appreciate the mahogany trim and stone fireplace just as well as a container home with a glass wall of mountain views. Whatever gets the job done. But the beauty we choose for our walls, our meals, and our audio system is worth a conversation.

Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies I”

Our art reflects our souls.

Whether we create it or pay for it, Quality is a reflection of our personal tastes and the subjective standard we hold for ourselves. I’ve seen another’s painting sold at $10,000 but personally find the piece crude, predictable, and unimpressive. I’ve read total crap books that sold millions only for their cheap smutty passages. What makes it good or bad is ours to decide, and no one has to agree. Social status and price tags rarely define the truth for me.

Don’t fall for illusion.

While I love an exceptional painting, meal, song, or clothing, I am not going to incur debt just because someone else determined its absurdly inflated value. No matter what a couple pays for their wedding, they still gotta live with their spouse, every single day. I do not need to own an original Monet to prove my worth. I could, however, desire an original Monet because the colors, sheen and texture speak to my soul.

In the classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig concludes, “The world can function without [quality], but life would be so dull as to hardly be worth living” (218). We would surely struggle to find value if we were not making comparisons. Yet, we can get caught up in the trappings of illusion, and then we are shallow fools.

We do know when something holds quality – it being difficult to define but not so hard to feel.

Beauty rejected fanciful Gaston, and we rejoiced at her depth of character. She knew quality resided instead within the Beast. Is my painting worth $100 or $100,000? Is my book worthy of publication? How am I going to feel when it sells? Some of my art is an embarrassment because it is pretty but hollow, like a trendy knock-off at Target. So, let it burn.

On the other hand, some of my art is still deeply satisfying; although, the original sold long ago to a stranger. I sometimes know I sold it for far less than its worth. What was its true worth? Well, who’s asking?


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