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Functions of Art in Culture


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Cultural Anthropology

Published in: Education

Functions of Art in Culture

  1. 1. Functions of Art itsallaboutculture.c Alana L. Jolley Professor of Anthropology om
  2. 2. Questions? • Why should we study Art? • Do we need art? • What Are the Functions of Art?
  3. 3. Art is not Art to Everyone
  4. 4. Art?
  5. 5. Picasso’s Art Can be very abstract.
  6. 6. Ancient Art Livia’s Frescoes The sacred vision of nature was current in the ancient world. So a symbolic reading is necessary for the garden paintings of the Villa of Livia; and must be linked with the deities venerated by the imperial couple. The Imperial Couple, of course, are Caesar Augustus (63 BC-14 AD) and his wife of 54 years, Livia. Augustus built a Villa for Livia on the Palatine Hill in Rome. Each of these separate frescoes to the left were lifted from the walls, and are displayed in the National Museum of Rome. Artist is Unknown
  7. 7. Art is . . . • A creative expression of human imagination, which interprets, expands, and engages life, through the eyes of the artist. • Used to give meaningful expression to parts of culture: ideology, religion, relationships, ethnic identities, politics, culture changes, as well as patterns of everyday life.
  8. 8. Who is the Artist? What is the art’s function? Scene from the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy
  9. 9. Why Study the Function of Art? • Art reflects a society’s cultural ideas, values, and concerns, either collective or individual. • Cross-cultural studies of art shows that it represents different worldviews, religious beliefs, political ideas, social values, kinship structures, economic relations, and historical memory.
  10. 10. Elizabeth Barrett-Browning A Sonnet in Verbal Art • How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. • I love thee to the depth and breadth and height • My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight • For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. • I love thee to the level of everyday’s • Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. • I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; • I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. • I love thee with the passion put to use • In my old grief’s, and with my childhood’s faith. • I love thee with a love I seemed to lose • With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath, • Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose, • I shall but love thee better after death.
  11. 11. Norman Rockwell’s Art “Non-violent Migration” A function of art illustrates cultural changes.
  12. 12. “School Fight” Norman Rockwell Gender and cultural change.
  13. 13. Functions of Art • Myths: offer explanations about the world • Can set cultural standards for behavior. • Transmits and preserves a culture’s customs and values through verbal art. • May contribute to cohesiveness, solidarity, or it may be destructive to society.
  14. 14. Political Art A function of art may suggest contemplation.
  15. 15. Art helps us to see reality/or not.
  16. 16. Peru Multi-culture Art Art can display pride in ethnicity.
  17. 17. Art is • Human imagination, which helps us enjoy life. • Uniquely human in its ability to use symbols to portray the physical world we share. • More than a utilitarian activity - but it may have begun as a utilitarian activity.
  18. 18. Visual Perceptions •Left: A wooden spoon made by the Dan people of Africa •Right: Bronze sculpture, “Spoon Woman,” by Italian artist, Alberto Giacometti,1926. •One is functional, the other is only esthetic.
  19. 19. Visual Art • May represent nature, as in Livia’s frescoes. • May be influenced by nature, but may choose to represent only basic patterns/or not. • Northwest Coast Indians of America create stylized animal figures, which are difficult for outsiders to identify as you see next.
  20. 20. Stylized Tlingit Headdress A mother bear & cub, w/abalone inlay.
  21. 21. Cave Art/Rock Paintings • Tribal people in Southern Africa created rock art showing animals they believed to possess unusual supernatural powers.
  22. 22. Verbal Art • Provides unwritten stories, beliefs, customs • Drama, poetry, chants, proverbs, riddles, unwritten stories/artistic traditions of rural or indigenous peoples. • “Folk art” of rural cultures, and “fine art” of the urban elite function differently.
  23. 23. Verbal Narratives • Myths: – Sacred narratives that explain how the world came to be. • Legends: – Stories told as if true that recount the exploits of heroes. (They may be true )
  24. 24. More Narratives • Epic Poem or Story: – Long oral narratives, sometimes in poetry or rhythmic prose. May recount glorious events in the life of a real or legendary person. • Tales: – Fictional, secular, or non-historical narratives, which instruct and entertain.
  25. 25. Ethnic or Celtic Art Book of Kells What is the function of art in this book?
  26. 26. Celtic Art Influence • Variety of tribes, peoples, geography - from Ireland to Turkey • Celtic Knots, Celtic Cross, Circles, Triangles, Zoomorphic Images are popular • Ireland, Scotland, Wales, but found in the art of other cultures: Vikings - and China!
  27. 27. Celtic Art Stylized Animals with Knots
  28. 28. Celtic Cross: Pagan and Christian Religious Overlay
  29. 29. Art and Music • Study of music in specific cultural settings is the specialized field of ethnomusicology. • Human music is perceived in terms of a scale. • Tonality refers to scale systems / modifications. • Traditional European music is measured into recurrent patterns of two, three, and four beats.
  30. 30. Music and Work • West Africans work to the beat of a drum, which sets the pace, unifies workers and relieves boredom.
  31. 31. Little Songs • “Little songs” of the Awlad’Ali Bedouins in Egypt are conversations of women at work. Their function is in enabling expressions of things that are otherwise too taboo to talk about.
  32. 32. Social Functions of Music • Expresses a group’s concerns. • Serves as an effective way for a social or ethnic group to assert identity. • May be used to advance political, economic, and social agendas.
  33. 33. Functions of Art • Art offers insights into a culture’s worldview. • Art gives clues to gender, kinship, religious beliefs, political ideas, and historical memory. • Art can display social status, spiritual identity, and political power.
  34. 34. Art Functions in Healing Navajo sand paintings are sacred healing rituals, which function together as art, religion, and healing. Supernatural images are “dry painted” with powders on a surface of clean sand. Navajo sand paintings are sacred healing rituals, which function together as art, religion, and healing. Supernatural images are “dry painted” with powders on a surface of clean sand.
  35. 35. Medieval Art And Healing Optimum: fresh and fleshy leaves Usefulness: to remove obstruction. Dangers: bad for the intestines. Neutralization: use with much oil. Collecting Cabbage Leaves