Emily Mason, "March is Heard" | Oil on Canvas | 60 x 54 inches | 1998

From the Editor: Defining Art

What makes a great work of art?

The answer to this simple, yet complex question is one that I find endlessly fascinating. The definitive answer is shrouded in a bit of mystery. It’s a question that philosophers, curators and artists themselves have contemplated for as long as art has been created. And it seems that beyond technical soundness, most everyone defines “great art” in their own terms.

In this issue of Western Art & Architecture, we invite you to consider the measures for what makes art great.

The paintings of Emily Mason, for example, inhabit a space of creative mystery and prompt a subjective exploration of meaning. How does she do what she does, elicit emotion from pools of pure color? It’s both profound and confounding. It sparks a deep curiosity (“A Devotion to Color.”)

Artist Shelley Reed, meanwhile, first defines great art for herself by choosing historic works she finds captivating. She then recreates elements from those paintings in black and white. A masterful feat in both scale and execution, her work generates awe and a modern relevance, while revitalizing art history (“Intertextual Paintings.”)

The way an architect chooses to design their own home is another measure of great art for an individual. For Lisa and James Evanson, their home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, focuses on shape, volume and detail (“Angles and Trapezoids Amid the High-Desert Skyline.”)

In Colorado, a home perfectly blends the tradition of reclaimed materials in mountain architecture with that of Western art, creating a continuation in theme and feeling (“Artistic Retreat.”)

And when writer T.C. Boyle shares the story of his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home (“Inspired by Architecture,”) we see the expanding influence of great art. The author was inspired to write his 2009 book, The Women, after living in a Wright-designed home. In that book, he defines the great architecture of Taliesin:

“My first impressions? Of peace, of beauty abounding, of an Old-World graciousness and elegance of line. And there was something more too: a deep, dwelling spiritual presence that seemed to emanate from the earth itself as if this were a holy place … ”

While reading over this issue, I invite you to consider your reactions to the work inside. What connects you to a painting or a structure? How do you define great art? Write to us, and let us know (christine@westernartandarchitecture.com).

Christine Rogel, Editor in Chief

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