Art, schmart

Occasionally I run into the complaint that without the influence of religious culture, art suffers. Modern art, apparently, is the inevitable result of a civilization that has lost interest in God; it is the sort of ugly, purposeless, offensive stuff you get when art loses track of transcendent ideals.

I guess if you believe in Beauty with a capital B, and that art (should that be Art?) should be about reaching into the higher Platonic realms to nourish the soul or whatever, some of this might make sense. But somehow, with me I find this sort of complaint doesn’t resonate at all. And not just because you need too many implicitly Capitalized assumptions to turn this into some sort of argument. It’s because I like modern art.

Sure, there is plenty of stuff out there that just isn’t to my taste. I’ll never get performance art, for one thing. Still, I find that in art museums, I gravitate toward the recent material. Possibly because I don’t come from a religious cultural background, I don’t miss it when it’s not overtly present. But really, I like modern stuff. Maybe I look for an “ooh, that’s interesting” kind of feeling rather than whatever response more soul-affirming art is supposed to provoke. Whatever the reason, though, complaints about modern, secular art leave me bewildered.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University