Is art about self-expression?

I thought I had something to say about this subject, but I’m having a really difficult time arriving at a coherent point. I wrote about 600 words just now trying to get my point out and ended up trashing them. So now I’m just going to gather the component observations of my ideas and leave it up to you to make something of it.

People make cathedrals, symphonies, films, and many other forms of art that take more than one person to create. People make art that expresses ideas and feelings greater than oneself, such as God, love, or suffering. Are these forms of art also self-expression? People constantly express themselves through mundane words, actions, and emotions, outside an artistic context. Are these forms of self-expression also art?

For most of history, I’m not sure self-expression was even part of the shared understanding of art. People made art to express their gods and heros, they made objects to be beautiful and pleasant, they sang and danced as a natural aspect of social living. But they weren’t doing it with the intention to express themselves, and if their art was self-expression, it was as a by-product of some other intention.

Even when art is meant as self-expression, the only way it’s going to mean something to other people is if it touches on something bigger than just a single person. When people express themselves in art, they’re expressing what they experience, which they trust goes outside of them and can reach other people.

I’m still not really happy with this post, but I’m running out of time to post again.

Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​