Shimamura_Chp 1

Shimamura_Chp 1 - Experiencing Art: Explorations in...

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i Experiencing Art: Explorations in Aesthetics, Mind, and Brain Arthur P. Shimamura Table of Contents 1: Overture Act I: The Art of Seeing 2: The Eye as Canvas, the Brain as Beholder 3. The Illusion of Form 4: Making a Scene Act II: The Art of Knowing 5. How Do You Know? 6: Remembrance of Past Things 7: You Are Cultured Act III: The Art of Feeling 8: Arousing Emotions 9: Body Language 10: I Know How You Feel 11: Coda
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Experiencing Art – Preprint Draft Chapter 1 1 Chapter 1: Overture “That would look nice on my wall…” Why do we adorn our walls with such things as paintings, photographs, and posters? What determines our choice of such “artworks”? For many years, in numerous college apartments and beyond, I had a poster of Monet’s Regatta at Argen- teuil (Figure 1.1) hanging on my wall. For me, the painting expressed the essence of aes- thetic beauty. I loved the scenery, its colors, and par- ticularly Monet’s brushwork. I marveled at the reflections of the sailboats in the water. Those splotches of paint, when placed within the con- text of the scene, rendered the impression of the water’s reflection, though in the real world we would never see water in such a manner. Many people resonate with Impressionism, as evidenced by the crowds who flock to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris to see some of the best recognized paintings in this genre, including Re- gatta at Argenteuil . But it wasn’t always that way. The cadre of painters who initiated Impres- sionism, such as Manet, Monet, and Renoir, were scorned and vilified during their day. Their paintings were considered unworthy by the Académie des Beaux-Arts ( Academy of Fine Arts ), the organization that controlled the French art scene during the 19 th Century. Critics at the time described their work as crude, unfinished, and lacking skill (see Barasch, 1998). Indeed, many purported that Impressionist paintings could hardly be called art . Now, in the same paintings, we see beauty, grace, and harmony. What’s changed? We must experience art within the realm of our cultural and personal knowledge. To a large extent, what we know determines what we like. In the eyes of 19 th century observers, Im- pressionism was a radical departure from paintings coveted by the established art community. Yet in the span of 150 years, a once ostracized style is now considered by many as the epitome of visual aesthetics. Clearly, our past experiences and knowledge determine what we find aes- thetically pleasing. In fact, it is often difficult to appreciate new works of art, because they are not easily understood. We now fully appreciate Impressionist paintings, though it is not uncom- mon to overhear a visitor at a contemporary art museum whispering to another, “Is that art?” Such changes in aesthetic appreciation across time force us to consider the importance of know- ledge in driving our experiences with art. Thus, in addition to sensual and emotional aspects, knowledge plays a key role in experiencing art.
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This note was uploaded on 11/04/2010 for the course PSYCH 39E SEM taught by Professor Shimamura during the Spring '10 term at Berkeley.

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Shimamura_Chp 1 - Experiencing Art: Explorations in...

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