By Allen Carlson
Conventional aesthetics is frequently linked to the appreciation of paintings, yet Allen Carlson indicates how a lot of
our aesthetic event doesn't surround artwork yet nature--in our reaction to sunsets, mountains, horizons or extra mundane atmosphere.
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Extra info for Aesthetics and the Environment: The Appreciation of Nature, Art and Architecture
These begin to become clear when it is realized that viewing the environment as if it were a landscape painting means viewing it as a static, essentially two-dimensional representation. This requires the reduction of the environment to a scene or view. But the environment is not a scene, not a representation, not static, and not two-dimensional. The point is that the mode of appreciation of the scenery cult requires the appreciation of the environment not as what it is and with the qualities it has, but as something which it is not and with qualities it does not have.
But given this, is it yet strong enough to really explain the conflict Twain finds between his two experiences of the river? Concerning this question, two points are relevant. On the one hand, as suggested above, the position, even if only empirical, yet clearly accounts for the conflict Twain reports, that is, his inability to aesthetically appreciate the river when he instead reads the language of the water as would a steamboat pilot. On the other hand, however, Twain claims that having mastered the language of the water, he has “lost something which could never be restored” to him in his lifetime.
However, as long as aesthetic appreciation includes understanding of content, the unity and the balance of the composition are maintained, seemingly because the very fact that two human beings are represented stabilizes the two major shapes and moreover gives a powerful focal point in the human faces at the top of the work, which focal point is sufficient to balance the heavy black peacock skirt at the bottom. In a similar way, in Christian works of art balance is sometimes achieved between many large shapes and one small cross shape, not by means of formal elements and relationships, but rather by means of the meanings that the shapes possess.