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Aesthetic Reasoning Homework Assignment 2

The item I chose is a piece of abstract art that was given to my mother by

one of her clients. I asked her permission to borrow it for this assignment. It

is a large wooden board with heavily textured white paint smeared across it

in a circular motion. Some parts of the white paint are outlined by thick black

lines from a sharpie, others areas have a thin outline in pen. In the bottom

right corner, there is a strange drawing of a woman-like creature decoupaged

onto the wood and outlined by thick sharpie.

This piece is creepy. It looks to me like a deformed old woman who is half

human and half robot. She appears masculine and does not present any idea

of beauty or femininity. Her body looks like it should belong to a man. Or if,

perhaps, it is meant to be a man, he lacks strength, and his face looks

feminine. The thumb on her right hand appears to be attached to the middle

of the palm, and the one on the left hand is on the wrong side. Her hair looks

dirty and matted and is stretched into a strange elongated bun. Her head is

much too large for the part of the body that she still has. A strange

mechanical base seems to be wedged into her ribs in place of hips and legs. I

cannot make sense of the piece. It fails to represent anything to me aside

from confusion. The four colors used are drab and do not look nice together.

Having dabbled in drawing and painting for many years, I can clearly see
that the artist is quite talented, however, in my opinion, failed to create a

work of art.

After staring at this piece all weekend, and nearly giving up on it,

something occurred to me. My mother is a therapist at a drug rehab center.

The client who gave her this painting is a drug addict. Taking this into

consideration, I was then able to look at the piece from a new perspective.

The reason I could not make sense of this piece at first is because it was

created to represent confusion, turmoil, and chaos. It is not meant to be

visibly beautiful or, for that matter, represent beauty in any way. On the

contrary, it represents the ugliness of a life of addiction. The man who

created this was expressing what he was going through in the midst of his

drug use. According to Moore and Parker, Objects are aesthetically valuable

if they are meaningful or teach us truths. (Critical thinking p. 463) This

piece of abstract art gives insight into the pain and struggle of a drug addict,

that most people have no concept of. This leads me to say that this piece

fulfills the first principle of Functionalism.

Looking back to the woman in this photo, it is clear that she is pained. Her

face is tired, worn, and her eyes hold a blank stare. She looks upward only to

see the waves above coming down to crash over her in the endless

destruction of the addiction cycle. Her hand is slightly stretched out as

though she desires help, but feels as though she is not worthy of it. At this

point in her battle, the woman has lost her identity. She is neither feminine
nor masculine. Her features are emaciated from lack of self care. She has

lost so much of herself that much of her body has been replaced by various

pieces of scrap metal. This seems to represent the addictive process taking

over her will. She is losing control of her body and mind as her addiction

convinces her that she cannot live without drugs. She can no longer walk on

her own as her lower body does not have working legs. She is mounted to

what looks like a wind up lever, activated only by the continued use of drugs.

Crippled in the midst of her addiction, she feels no hope of ever getting out

of this storm which she has brought upon herself. She is alone and ready to

give up. The drab color scheme represents a lack of joy in her life and the

low variety of colors used reveal the mundane and repetitive life of someone

struggling with an addiction. The bold black outline of black surrounding her

shows that she has secluded herself; shut off from the world.

Aristotle states that The aim of art is to represent not the outward

appearance of things, but their inward significance. (qtd. in Critical Thinking

p.468) That is precisely what this artist has done. The woman depicted in

the piece is an outward representation of how the artist was feeling on the

inside when he created it. It provides a visual image of the reality of what

one is faced with in the midst of a drug addiction. Due to this fact, I would

argue that this piece also fulfils the third principle of Functionalism. Moore

and Parker write Objects are aesthetically valuable if they have the capacity

to help bring about social or political change. (Critical Thinking p. 464) I

certainly believe that this piece could help bring understanding to those who
have not experienced an addiction. Many people believe seem to believe

that drug users are lazy human beings who decided to give up their

responsibilities and party for the rest of their lives leading them to a well

deserved life of homelessness and misery. However, this is rarely the case.

More than two thirds of drug addicts are victims of childhood abuse that

drove them to use drugs later on in life. Many others are veterans dealing

with PTSD from fighting for our country. If more of society understood that

most drug addicts are in extreme emotional and physical turmoil and feel

helpless in knowing how to stop the cycle, they may be less likely to judge

and more willing to help.

Works Cited

Moore, Brooke, and Richard Parker. Critical Thinking. 10th ed. New York:

McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.