|MONA LISA, Leonardo DaVinci |
the world's most famous painting
I came upon this quote reading Jared Diamond's book THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE: The Evolution And Future Of The Human Animal. For those who didn't know chimps share over 98% of our genetic code. However, with rare instances no animal creates art like Homo sapiens. So, Wilde might well be right.
We diverged from chimpanzes about 7 million years ago. The first unequival proof of art by modern man was created by our Cro-Magnon ancestors 40,000 years ago in the now famous caves in Lascaux France. Slowly we have become more articulate in expressing our artistic impulses.
Wilde is right in that art doesn't help us survive (or does it make life more bearable?) or pass on our genes. However, one could argue art inspires us, like our ancestors, to do something better, like be better hunters, and ownership of art can prove our ability to provide thus insuring our genes are passed on. If you own a Monet, there is little worry about having a roof over our heads.
Diamond and others argue that art is learned. That every culture, society on earth teaches its people the tenets of its art. It is not genetic. It's learned. Yet, recent studies have discovered that we ARE programmed to create and enjoy music. Just like music, every single culture on earth has art. Will we discover that art is is encoded in our brains as well? Is art the means we have to explain who and what we are in this time and place? Can art, as some believe, predict our futures? It certainly has provided a glimpse of our past.
I believe that art has relevance. That it has a story to tell. That it records who and what we are and more frequently who we were. While it's true we give it value, it also gives us great pleasure. It makes our lives bearable. It gives us hope, inspires us, makes us reverent, has the ability to make us better people. To remove art, would make us nothing more than the animals we sprang from. If that were so, then Wilde would be right, art would be quite useless.
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