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The Limitations of Art

Oscar Wilde wrote (through a character in his book), The Portrait of Dorian Gray, “to define is to limit.” But then he went on to define and place boundaries on social norms, life, art, and situations. Oscar Wilde himself stated in the prologue; “we can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.”


What I interpret from this is that what Wilde is trying to say is art is not meant to be useful, it’s meant to be admired. By doing so, he’s already shoved art into a cardboard box with a label that says “to be admired only” which contradicts the point he’s made further in his book.


As human beings, we’re so quick to categorize and make boundaries. Sometimes it’s for our own ease but other times it’s the divide that drives us against each other.


In my perspective, art is not only meant to be admired. Whatever we do with love, with passion, and with the power of our emotions is art. Art is not just paintings hanging in art museums, it’s not just music or dance, it’s everything we do as human beings. From the way we walk to our ability to invent and create; every single thing we do is art. Humans are artists. Art for a marine biologist could be to see how the manta rays travel together like a family. Art for a fashion student could be the way models strut on the runaways, radiating confidence. Art for a carpenter could be the queen’s throne. Art for a mathematician could be the beauty of logic as well as a field of daisies. It just depends on us. The same way beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, art lies in the eyes of the artist. The work we do is art. Even if it’s as simple as blowing a bubble or as complex as creating a new equation; it is art. Our work is an art and that means art is useful. Art can be anything that is sourced out of our mind and our body and through our emotions, it’s limitless.


We overlook these kinds of arts because perhaps they’re so consistent in our day-to-day life that it slips past our notice. Maybe it’s because our entire life we’ve been told that art is visual arts, music, theatre, and dance. When someone says that they’re studying art would a science subject ever come to your mind? Studying medicine is an art in itself but we’ve just stuck a label on art that doesn’t let us look beyond those definitions that we have made.





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