The Verisimilitude of Aesthetics: A Commodity or a Vocation?

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The Verisimilitude of Aesthetics: A Commodity or a Vocation?


"If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him."

~John F. Kennedy

When Michelangelo was working for several months already on the ceiling of Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) of the Vatican, a bishop who was tasked to oversee the development of his work asked how long it would take him to finally finish the fresco.

"Monsignor," said Michelangelo, "I'm not working for time but for eternity!"

The profoundness of art endures time and space. Its aesthetic value is neither dictated by the limelight nor sanctified by its worth in the market. Neither the terminus a quo(the derivation of art) nor theterminus ad quem(for whom artis created) propels its sublimity as an art form, but the intrinsic value that emanates from the creative processin relation to the Summum Bonum or the highest good of humanity.

From this precept, we can logically assume that no art, created by one artist, is superior or inferior from others because it is anathema to its noble purpose, as an iconic representation of the Truth. To profess that one art is loftier than other art, on the pretext that it is sensationalized by mass media or bidden at auction houses, is to reduce itsaestheticvalue as amere commodified object acquiescent to the pecuniary trade and branding.

Art, per se, is beyond the dictate of the market or media sensationalism because it is a metaphysical entity of symbol and meaning. Although, it assumes in a material form, its latitudinal concept and principle are intrinsically ordained to the metaphysical realities, i.e., truth, good, and beauty. Its transcendental value can only change if the artist subverts the terminus ad quemof art by conforming to the whims and caprices of mass culture (the market and its consumers), rather than adhering to the aesthetic ethos as coexistent with culture andsociety.

The question 'to compromise or not to compromise art?' is not just rhetorical or Hamletian that elicits a pecuniary and self-aggrandizing undertone; it also leads to a pervertedperception of art as a commoditized product in an insanely materialistic and consumerist society.

Even if one were to compromise according to the dictate of the market or the titillating demand for a 'shocking' or 'spectacular' art, what are the chances of an artist to be known and respected in the art world? What is the magical formula that can propel an artistic career into fame, if not the horror of infamy, so that one's art will be sought and lionized by collectors, museums, corporate entities, and auction houses?

What, then, is the measure of a successful artistic career: Is it the "monetary success" or the "respect" from the art world despite the material deprivation of the artist, or both? What does it mean to become an artist today, and what role does he or she play in affecting the consciousness of the society?

Arguably, art is not quantifiable based on the corporate marque and stock index because it is not a basic commodity, which comprises the physiological human needs. Art exists as emissary of metaphysical realities within a particular period, culture, and history of humanity. As co-existent with culture, art nurtures and inspires the society while its creator, as the medium, is called to serve for that noble purpose. Whatever monetary proceeds that comes from art is just an honorarium for the artist to continue living and creating for the society.

Conversely, to create art or to become an artist is a vocation parallel to the call of the priest, imam, or rabbi. Vocation comes from the Latin word "vocare," which means to call or to summon. When someone is called, it depends on the individual discretion whether to respond or not to respond to that call. However, if one conscientiously heeded and acted to the"call," it is assumed that he or she did it out of freedom and free will.

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