I have never gotten art. I can't determine what is and isn't a great work of art, or even define what constitutes a great work of art.

Kim Zussman replies:

Scott, in my experience art is very personal communication - between the artist and the viewer, and between the viewers.

Yes, there is much scholarship on the subject: what was innovative, what changed the world. But good pieces talk if you listen carefully. And great pieces will never leave you.

Even modern art.

For example, take this web site's favorite subject of barbecue: There have been many descriptions of delicious smoked ribs, dripping sausages, saucy pulled pork. When you savor this food, you taste something of the life and the love of the cooks - as well as friends who find it important enough to recommend. A common experience, which feels unique, and pre-dates you by thousands of years and will continue to live beyond.

Isn't it wonderful to share food loved by all? That's art - because it is talking to you - and many others. You are connected to past and future. It talks without words and within it you speak loud in silence. If you cannot hear then you are not listening or it is not talking.

Beautiful women are art. Yes, they are up to something, and indeed they are programmed functionaries. But if her flashing eyes unsettle you, or the fine hair on her arm or the particular curve of her breast, this is art (as well they know). That they don't realize the extent of their role is art.

Even not-beautiful women are art. Sometimes the best kind of art.

Art debilitates. And it's funny.

We cannot seek it - it will come for us. And raise us up, by the neck for just long enough to allow the taste of life and the understanding that others can taste it too.


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