The definition of American art has expanded over the course of this country’s history. Events and experiences shape the nation and people as a whole throughout the course of time, and it is of no surprise then that art is continuously influenced by what we experience. Just as the country is continuously changing, so is art.
In this day and age, people attend contemporary art exhibits, such as those at Miami’s Art Basel, and oftentimes make remarks along the lines of “This isn’t real art” or “I could do that too." Such statements aren’t necessarily scathing criticisms; rather, they are the true thoughts of the public. Many people can argue that contemporary art is better than its predecessors, or vice versa, but choosing a side to this argument would not serve any piece of art its due justice. Historical pieces such as Mary Cassatt's "In the Loge" can easily be compared to modern pieces such as Keith Haring's "Crack is Wack." To some, this comparison may not be understandable, but the true purpose of art is to communicate a message or express one self. Artistic movements, such as the Impressionist style in which "In the Loge" is painted in and the street art style in which "Crack is Wack" is created in, play separate but integral roles in conveying an artist's message. As art continues to develop throughout the years, many controversial pieces begin to pop up. The Whitney Museum of Art in New York City holds exhibits that make the American public question what art has evolved to. Critics bash the exhibits at the Whitney, one of which contains a fun house filled with tacky furniture and another which holds life-like sex dolls. Remarks of criticism are often accompanied by comments such as “deeply dissatisfying” and “generic." One journalist, Jason Farago, brings up the point that if such exhibits containing the tacky furniture and sex dolls are some of the best examples of the American art of today, then “does the American art, as a category, mean anything?"
The turning point in American art could arguably be the 1993 Biennial Exhibit at the Whitney, which did not follow market trends and instead showcased opinionated works. Many of these pieces were created by women and artists of different races and showed looming American struggles such as the AIDS crisis, the war in the Persian Gulf, and the struggling economy. That year’s biennial was filled with controversy, but it did set an example. This example showcased the true “American” spirit; even if “audiences approved or disapproved of the art on display, it was proudly, even defiantly, American." Such a statement is incredibly true. From the time of the 13 colonies, the colonists (soon to be Americans) fought for their independence from Britain. Such patriotism is unique as it shapes the way in which Americans choose to express themselves and their freedom. The advancements of technology and globalism have also played a major role in art. For example, now, art circulates faster than ever before. At this time, people like myself are able to access art from anywhere on the Internet. American art can no longer be described simply as new and controversial art has faded from being considered “avant-garde” because similarly risqué pieces have already been made. Yes, the definition of art continues to change, but the value of each historic art piece uncovered and each new art piece created is priceless.