On Wednesday May 8, Yuba College Professor of Music Dr. Robert Matthews held a noon lecture on arts and aesthetics in American culture. There were about 90 students and faculty attending the lecture. His lecture was one of many events that took place during the Fiesta de Colores week on campus, which was hosted by the popular Crossing Borders and Building Bridges Event Series. Dr. Matthews explained the difference between art and aesthetics in our culture and provided many clear examples. For example, he categorized Britney Spears as being aesthetic and Beethoven as being art. However, in order to simplify his comparison, Dr. Matthews narrowed the comparative gap by comparing Beethoven to American composer John Williams, the soundtrack composer for such films as “Jaws” and the “Star Wars” Trilogy. Also he used food as a basis for comparison. He said that cooking is an art but, by eating it, the food becomes aesthetic.
His lecture stressed the value and differences between art and aesthetics. Dr. Matthews also wanted to emphasize that aesthetics are good things and that they have value. He likened aesthetics to eating ice cream; it’s okay to eat every once and a while. It is okay to enjoy things that are pleasing to the eye. The purpose of aesthetics is to please and entertain. However, art does not have to please everyone.Matthews compared art to an onion with many layers. Art requires that observer to peel away layers to reach deeper meaning. He also stated that art makes you think. Dr. Matthews believes that we as a society have forgotten how to think. He posed the question “Do we think anymore?”
The room was silent.
He was right, we don’t think as much as we should. We don’t look at things to study them but merely except what it is, as it is. Dr. Matthews argued that art makes us think and art requires effort. People who don’t appreciate art will not put any time or effort to look past the aesthetic and discover the vision a true artist creates. They only see the artificiality of the aesthetic.
“Aesthetics have a limited shelf life,” Dr. Matthews said. For example, fruits vegetables and pop music have a very short shelf life. This is how he incorporated Britney into the equation. She has a limited shelf life, where as composer such as Mozart will be around forever. If Britney wants to be what Dr. Matthews considers an artist, she needs to write her own music and independent of concerns for popularity. Dr. Matthews continued by saying popular things don’t always stay popular. People move past one thing and on to the next.
Dr. Matthews concluded by saying that there was much to be learned about life from art. Dr. Matthews showed pictures of the art sculpture in the middle of the Yuba College campus taken from different angles. He asked what we thought it represented and if we enjoyed the sculpture. He explained that wherever you stand around it, you can see something different. It represented different points of view. Dr. Matthews felt that it was true art because it showed emotion and it provoked thinking. However, not everyone likes it. Clearly art is in the eye of the beholder.