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Why Recreate Art?

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Why Recreate Art?

The purpose of art has been a debated issue stemming from its origins.  Plato claimed that the purpose of art was to mimic a perfect world of which humans are not a part of.  Therefore, art was even further removed from reality, as it was an imitation of an imitation, and it fostered the less than perfect world that we inhabited.  Aristotle offered a counter theory of the purpose of art, theorizing that art is cathartic and it was medicinally useful.  However, art was still an imitation of reality in the world, a mimesis.  In addition to these theories, Susan Sontag offered her opinion in her essay, Against Interpretation, in saying that the role of art is to create more choices and increase the range of experiences that one can have while observing a work of art.  She states that by trying to apply an overarching meaning to the purpose of art, we are preventing ourselves from finding other possible meanings and reducing the value of art.  The possibility of projecting an individuals’ opinion on a piece of work as opposed to letting the meaning come from the art is very possible when looking at art.  Sontag tells an observer of art to look at the form of the art as opposed to the content, or the meaning, to appreciate the purpose of the work of art.   So, with all of these theories present, why is there still an impulse to copy and preserve pieces of art?

            Edgar Degas was one of the founders of the Impressionist movement during the nineteenth century.  The majority of the subjects in paintings were ballerinas in their primary environments, the classroom, rehearsal, and on stage.  In his painting, Fiocre in the Ballet La Source the first appearance of the ballet dancer at work was seen.  Degas was able to capture the movement and artistic nature of the ballerina while still maintaining the shape and form of the dancer herself.  His use of brushstrokes and palette was different from the other artists of his time who were using a dark palette and primarily painting portraits and still life works of art.  In contrast, Degas’ paintings used large bold brushstrokes articulating movement and bright vivid colors that emphasized light. 

As an artist, I find Degas to be refreshing and his paintings to be aesthetically pleasing due to their distinct qualities.  I am drawn to him because of his subject matter, his content, opposed to the suggestions made by Sontag.  I find his paintings to place dancers in a very positive light and he portrays their bodies and physical abilities in an accurate manner.  When I am observing a Degas painting, I immerse myself into the moment of the scene that is being represented.  In the painting Dancer on Stage, a dancer is in motion while performing a solo on stage and appears to be exuding joy.  Degas managed to extract the simplest and most pure form of the emotion that the dancer is feeling at the specific moment in time.  I was compelled to recreate this picture using alternate mediums to see if I could manage to mimic the feelings that Degas inspired me with.  Using oil pastels and a piece of construction paper, I created and alternate version using the original painting as my guide.  Throughout the process, I was able to have my own experiences in creating a new piece of art that conserved an older form. 

There are several reasons behind my desire to recreate Degas’ works.  First, he inspires me.  His ability to capture the movement, emotion and presence of a ballerina, even when she is standing, makes me want to create a recreation.  Secondly, by learning his technique and looking at the manner of his paintings, my range of understanding will increase.  I will be able to apply his techniques to my other paintings and as a result make them unique. Thirdly, while creating a work of Degas, memories from my unconscious become apparent throughout the process.  I am reminded of my experiences as a dancer and how many of the scenarios that I am painting, I have partaken in.  By painting Degas, my brain is making connections and finding patterns between what I am painting and my past which could assist in my attraction to Degas paintings.  Finally, the process of remaking a piece of art gives me a set of experiences that I could not have come across by any other path.  These experiences allow me to evolve as an artist and appreciate other pieces of work as well.   



Works Cited:


Degas. 2009. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 20 April 2009. <>


Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation: And Other Essays. New York: Macmillan. 1966.


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Anne Dalke's picture

copying as evolution?


Such an interesting experiment! I hope you soon figure out how to load the images you are talking about and creating—they will add a whole other dimension to your analysis.

You are doing something striking here—or you lead up to doing it, though I don’t think you’ve quite completed the project yet. You start by reviewing a history of art appreciation: from the mimetics of Plato and Aristotle to the explicitly anti-mimetic theory of Susan Sontag. Then you lay alongside that history your own experiences of appreciating, and trying to reproduce, the ballerina paintings of Edgar Degas.

What I’d like to hear (much!) more about here are the implications of your own way of responding to art, so different from the one Sontag advises: it involves copying what was made by another. In what way does this activity represent an evolutionary art form?

Sontag insists that we stop paying attention to content, in part because it focuses on the past—how “accurately” a work of art represents what we already know—and look instead @ the form, which abstracts ‘reality,’ and so invites us to see it differently, and anew. In sharp contrast to her recommendations, your own account of appreciating, and reproducing, Degas, has to do with being reminded of your own experiences. Your mimicking is explicitly a re-creation, not a new creation: you actually say that you are “painting your past.”

What is also striking here is your emphasis on learning by doing, on coming to understanding by MAKING something yourself, not just studying what another has made. Is that (one) way in which your process might be understood as a contribution to the “evolution” of art? (For similar examples, in literary form, see the Whitmanian poetry written by two of your classmates:
Old and New: /exchange/node/4188
Roots of Sky: /exchange/node/4194