Why Art?
What is “Art”? It’s widely accepted that art serves an important function in society. But the concept falls under such an absurdly large umbrella and can manifest in so many different ways. Art can be self indulgent, goofy, serious, altruistic, evil, or expressive, or any number of other things. But how can it truly make lasting, positive change? In Why Art?, acclaimed graphic novelist Eleanor Davis (How To Be Happy) unpacks some of these concepts in ways both critical and positive, in an attempt to illuminate the highest possible potential an artwork might hope to achieve. A work of art unto itself, Davis leavens her exploration with a sense of humor and a thirst for challenging preconceptions of art worth of Magritte, instantly drawing the reader in as a willing accomplice in her quest.

Why Art? Details

TitleWhy Art?
Author
ReleaseFeb 13th, 2018
PublisherFantagraphics
ISBN-139781683960829
Rating
GenreSequential Art, Comics, Graphic Novels, Art, Fiction

Why Art? Review

  • David Schaafsma
    January 1, 1970
    Well, that was unexpected. This is to my mind one of the best comics creations I have encountered this year, or in awhile. And not exactly a graphic novel, exactly. But it is, too, finally, as a story emerges. Let me explain:Great cartoonist/illustrator Davis creates a book with a kind of textbook title, to help students of art understand the nature of art, gradually appears to spoof and unravel that purpose in surrealistic or absurdist ways, and then shows us she has been serious all along, rea Well, that was unexpected. This is to my mind one of the best comics creations I have encountered this year, or in awhile. And not exactly a graphic novel, exactly. But it is, too, finally, as a story emerges. Let me explain:Great cartoonist/illustrator Davis creates a book with a kind of textbook title, to help students of art understand the nature of art, gradually appears to spoof and unravel that purpose in surrealistic or absurdist ways, and then shows us she has been serious all along, really. Her book really could be used as a textbook or reflection on the nature of art and the purpose of the imagination in the world, after all. In the end the text, which early on is a series of illustrations and cartoons about ideas about color and form, evolves into an allegory about a collective of artists that calls attention to the fact that technical issues are really not the most important aspect of what art is about. Art is ultimately about its relationship to life, and to its transformative powers. Art is at its best heart and soul and society.But we get to that simple, possibly reductive point in unexpected ways. And we do look at a range of possibilities in art, ranging from realistic representation to performance art. Finally, we do grapple with questions artists have struggled with for centuries such as the centrality of and definitions of beauty. Maybe this book is not for everyone, if you like conventional art and tales, but this is a book not written by a scholar of art but an artist. Why Art? was definitely for me. In the end it gets wild, seemingly out of control, and it actually moved me in a way that surprised me. I loved it.
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  • Sophie Croteau
    January 1, 1970
    I didn’t think a 20 minutes read could make me cry.
  • Adam Stone
    January 1, 1970
    Is art blue? Is it orange? How big is art? These questions and more are involved in Eleanor Davis's "Why Art?"There are several five star reviews already about how wonderful this book is, and about how they are going to sleep with it next to their bed. I'm very happy people have found joy in this book. For me, it seemed really empty. An artist who is himself flimsy is made of paper maiche.A performance artist who sincerely says "I love you" to her audience is sincere.So?I had the same sense of " Is art blue? Is it orange? How big is art? These questions and more are involved in Eleanor Davis's "Why Art?"There are several five star reviews already about how wonderful this book is, and about how they are going to sleep with it next to their bed. I'm very happy people have found joy in this book. For me, it seemed really empty. An artist who is himself flimsy is made of paper maiche.A performance artist who sincerely says "I love you" to her audience is sincere.So?I had the same sense of "shrug emoji" that I had reading Rupi Kaur's poetry. These statements and ideas seem like they should be deep, but they don't actually say anything, and provide me with no emotional connection to, well, anything.It does revisit its revelations about characters by the end, so it builds to...something.I guess I would recommend it to people who like Instagram poetry but wish it had a long, disjointed narrative.
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  • Rod Brown
    January 1, 1970
    Davis takes a tongue-in-cheek look at her title question while managing to be just a bit profound. From the opening pages ("Orange artworks. Blue ones. Both orange and blue ones.") made me laugh out loud and think immediately of This Is Not an Apple and Dr. Seuss. That sense of playfulness continues throughout with some digressions into deeper pain, especially the performance artist section. Clever overall, but a bit too odd for me in the end.
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  • Liz Yerby
    January 1, 1970
    Part comics, part textbook, Davis is asking some big questions. a very enjoyable little ride.
  • Derek Royal
    January 1, 1970
    What I thought would be a more expository text actually turned out to be something completely different. And fascinating. In many ways this is an enigmatic text, but multiple readings reveal a more coherent message, or messages, about the potential of creativity.
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  • Diz
    January 1, 1970
    This is a bit bizarre. It's not really about art, but about how people relate to art and what it means in their lives. Also, it's about how the power of creation leads us to learn something about ourselves. It does get a bit abstract at times, so multiple readings are probably necessary to fully appreciate it. The way this book is written is more like a children's picture book for adults rather than as a comic, so there is a lot less text than in a typical comic. This makes it easy to do the mul This is a bit bizarre. It's not really about art, but about how people relate to art and what it means in their lives. Also, it's about how the power of creation leads us to learn something about ourselves. It does get a bit abstract at times, so multiple readings are probably necessary to fully appreciate it. The way this book is written is more like a children's picture book for adults rather than as a comic, so there is a lot less text than in a typical comic. This makes it easy to do the multiple readings that are needed.
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  • dv
    January 1, 1970
    A beautifully unexpected voyage into the world of art. It starts like a common sense visual guide on art, it expands by investigating subtle aspects of the activities of researching, producing and communicating art, it explodes into chaos and them comes back with great insights. A great little book.
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  • Carolee Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    Eleanor, what does the inside of your mind look like?
  • Sarah Kennedy
    January 1, 1970
    holy and pure and scary and truethis book will sleep in my bed with me for the next few weekspure pure magic again from Eleanor
  • vostendrasamigos yotengolibros
    January 1, 1970
    Why everything Eleanor Davis creates is so perfect and beautiful? I'm stunned really so sensitive so deep so poetic, I just love Eleanor Davis. I really recommend this.But if the toxic masculinity in this society has affected that much that you can't read poetry without feeling violate this is not for you and I think it's not the job of author deconstruct your fear of sensitivity, it's yours, so don't be a as;)ole.
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  • Rudolph Rihner
    January 1, 1970
    Eleanor Davis is one of the best comics artists around.
  • Zach
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful and weird.
  • Mateen Mahboubi
    January 1, 1970
    A veritable journey through art. I enjoyed the beginning, I enjoyed the end and I enjoyed everything in between. A quick read with a lot to take from it. Highly recommended.
  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    Don't think this graphic novel's absurdist, off-the-wall sense of humour would be for everyone, which is why I loved it. I chuckled a lot. The sense of humour reminded me a lot of SuperMutant Magic Academy, except with less of the nihilism and more metaphor and symbolism in this work. I do like that Davis is one of those artists that changes her medium and style throughout her graphic novels, but I do feel like the cover of this and the work in You & a Bike & a Road was more moving aesth Don't think this graphic novel's absurdist, off-the-wall sense of humour would be for everyone, which is why I loved it. I chuckled a lot. The sense of humour reminded me a lot of SuperMutant Magic Academy, except with less of the nihilism and more metaphor and symbolism in this work. I do like that Davis is one of those artists that changes her medium and style throughout her graphic novels, but I do feel like the cover of this and the work in You & a Bike & a Road was more moving aesthetically to me than Why Art? Although this might just be down to personal tastes.
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  • Comics Alternative
    January 1, 1970
    http://comicsalternative.com/episode-...
  • Glade
    January 1, 1970
    Perfect.
  • Shawn Birss
    January 1, 1970
    This surprising little book starts off as though it intends to satirize textbook categorization of art. It begins by introducing us to elements one might find in art, but with absurdity, such as giving examples of colour in art with black and white line drawings. The book then escalates the absurdity very soon after it first begins to be possibly saying something constructive. It all appears to be a farce. Until it isn't. And Davis surprises the reader by taking all the absurd elements and bring This surprising little book starts off as though it intends to satirize textbook categorization of art. It begins by introducing us to elements one might find in art, but with absurdity, such as giving examples of colour in art with black and white line drawings. The book then escalates the absurdity very soon after it first begins to be possibly saying something constructive. It all appears to be a farce. Until it isn't. And Davis surprises the reader by taking all the absurd elements and bringing them together into a simple but powerful example of how and why we need art in our lives. It's a lovely book, suitable for all ages, appropriate for inspiring thought and conversation around art and its place in our world. ☠Trade PaperbackFourth EditionFantagraphics Books, 2018Four StarsMay 4-5, 2018☠
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  • Jenee
    January 1, 1970
    As a visual artist and a creative, I loved this book, and by reading this appreciate my journey a lot more.
  • Vel Veeter
    January 1, 1970
    Hmmmmmmm, I guess I didn’t really like this book or really didn’t get it. No, it really doesn’t seem to answer the question of why art? but instead seems to tell a kind of metaphysical (their words) but I would say more so existential journey about the pursuit of art and what that kind of life would mean for someone making that journey. So it’s not a radical interpretation of the field, the medium, or any other kind of defense, elegy, apology, or otherwise kind of intellectual claim about art. I Hmmmmmmm, I guess I didn’t really like this book or really didn’t get it. No, it really doesn’t seem to answer the question of why art? but instead seems to tell a kind of metaphysical (their words) but I would say more so existential journey about the pursuit of art and what that kind of life would mean for someone making that journey. So it’s not a radical interpretation of the field, the medium, or any other kind of defense, elegy, apology, or otherwise kind of intellectual claim about art. Instead, this book is more a much simpler journey into being an artist. As such, I didn’t find it to be saying much and really didn’t find it left much of if any impression on me by the time I was done with it. So I read it….I looked at all the pictures in it. And then, I stopped and wrote this review. If I don’t have much to say, I am in like company.It’s interesting because there’s so many many many good books that ask this question and come up with much more satisfying or at least thorough answers, even when I don’t agree with them. So here’s what I suggest. Instead of reading this book, and go ahead and skip it, I suggest a great book I read years ago when I was looking for a conceptual framework to explain the Peter Carey novel “Jack Maggs” which retells Great Expectations from the perspective of Magwitch. Because this was a rewriting of that novel, the conventional framework would be to borrow the psychological concept of “intertextuality” primarily explained by Julia Kristeva. But I always found that application to fit awkwardly on the projects I was reading. Instead, I settled on a more satisfying idea of “parody” as elucidated by art critic Linda Hutcheon. So read Linda Hutcheon is my point I think.
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  • Przemek Skoczyński
    January 1, 1970
    Naczytałem się jak fantastyczna to pozycja i początkowo czułem spory niedosyt. Zapowiadało się na minimalistyczny wykład na temat sztuki, bardzo ogólny i w zasadzie prosty, ale na szczęście w pewnym momencie staje się to tak fantastycznie zapętlone, podatne na interpretację i surrealistyczne, że automatycznie ciśnienie skacze. Sztuka jako ucieczka, sztuka jako niepokój, sztuka jako najważniejsze w życiu pytanie, sztuka jako droga do destrukcji, sztuka jako ratunek - to wszystko w tym niewielkim Naczytałem się jak fantastyczna to pozycja i początkowo czułem spory niedosyt. Zapowiadało się na minimalistyczny wykład na temat sztuki, bardzo ogólny i w zasadzie prosty, ale na szczęście w pewnym momencie staje się to tak fantastycznie zapętlone, podatne na interpretację i surrealistyczne, że automatycznie ciśnienie skacze. Sztuka jako ucieczka, sztuka jako niepokój, sztuka jako najważniejsze w życiu pytanie, sztuka jako droga do destrukcji, sztuka jako ratunek - to wszystko w tym niewielkim komiksie, który przeczytasz w pół godziny, by potem wracać do niego regularnie.
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  • Annie Valdes
    January 1, 1970
    i like the premise; but i didn't find it in the end a compelling book... it may be because i didn't find the illustrations particularly intriguing.the children's book, "where's Art?" does a better intro to the notion, albeit aimed at a younger audience. it's sitting, however, on my coffee table for my piano students to peruse while waiting for their lessons. curious to hear their reactions!
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  • Norman
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyed it. Very quick read, but it was not at all what I was expecting. There’s an actual story, so it morphed into an emotional journey (very smooth transition). I found it to be quite colorful for a black and white book (except for those three pages of color), which, I suppose, tells a lot about the writing. At the end of the day, art is whatever we want to make of it, and maybe an artist isn’t the best person to explain the “why” of art.
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  • Gphatty
    January 1, 1970
    This book cannot truly be "spoiled" -- it is a joy that bears re-reading -- but I think it is fair to say that by taking the journey laid out by the author, you could easily come about thinking of art in new and enjoyable ways. It is silly, deep, thought-provoking. Beautifully illustrated. And not at all what one would expect. Its existence is an exemplary testimony to its title. Can't wait to buy a copy for me, and extras to give to friends.
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  • Lily
    January 1, 1970
    This begins rambling and wandering about art a bit and then gets us into a weird situation with seeming shadowboxes. Does art imitate life? Vice versa? Is its point to solve our problems or create them? Is it to better ourselves or do we better ourselves in the making. This is a nice little piece of art in and of itself!
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  • Tom Ewing
    January 1, 1970
    [Read as part of the Book Riot 2018 challenge - a ‘graphic novel’ (it isn’t but whatever) written and drawn by the same person.]Lovely stuff. Yes, it answers the titular question (no spoilers though!). Surreal, funny, fluid, works beautifully as a digital comic, unfolds deceptively. Might/should review it at greater length.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Every book I read by Eleanor Davis makes me cry at least once (basically including Stinky and Flop to the Top) and becomes my favourite ever book. I can’t wait to teach this one and read it over and over. It’s so lovely and moving AND FUNNY.
  • Evelyn
    January 1, 1970
    The book is more performance art about what might be classified as “art” than a thoughtful well-reasoned response to the question posed by the book’s title.Read it for the graphics, not for the discussion of the subject matter.
  • Maia
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this book is like experiencing a beautiful, strange dream that happens to also be an essay on the power and meaning of art. Eleanor Davis has an amazing mind. I've loved every book of hers that I've read; this is no exception.
  • Eydie Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Not what I was expecting but had a some thought provoking moments. Started by giving it a 3 but I am 300 pages into another book and can't say the same. This book took my 20 minutes and has proved more valuable so switched to a 4.
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