Geoffrey Miller

But what if we step back from the fine arts and ask ourselves what engagement ordinary humans have with visual ornamentation, once they step outside the dim museums of Florence and return to their real lives. Our opportunities to appreciate the fine arts typically arise during vacations and weekend trips to local museums. But visual ornamentation surrounds us every day. We wear clothing and jewelry. We buy the biggest, most beautiful houses we can afford. We decorate our homes with furniture, rugs, prints, and gardens. We drive finely designed brightly colored automobiles, which we choose for their aesthetic appeal as much as their fuel efficiency. We may even paint the odd watercolor. This sort of everyday aesthetic behavior comes quite naturally, in every human culture and at every moment in history.
There is no clear line between fashion and art, between ornamenting our bodies and beautifying our lives. Body-painting, jewelry, and clothing were probably the first art forms, since they are the most common across cultures. Nor is there a clear line between art and craft—as William Morris argued when founding thc Arts and Crafts movement in Victorian England. Fine art may be strictly useless in pragmatic terms, while good design merely makes beautiful that which is already useful. When we address the evolution of human art, we need to explain both the aesthetic made useless and the useful made aesthetic. Even apparently pragmatic tools like Homo erectus handaxes may have evolved in part through sexual selection as displays of manual skill.

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