In this "Post-Modern" age of defenestrating all conventions in a claim that they are nothing more then that, I think we've thrown out somethings that we shouldn't have. It's like when you throw out your only good knife with all the vegetable peelings. I assume that booting out all those norms that past generations lived by was an attempt to free ourselves from the past. But freedom, I believe, is not synonymous with anarchy.
I think that this idea of convention vs. universal truth is key in unlocking the true definition of art. I once read a book that asked the question "what is art?" and the conclusion was basically that it is any expression that one makes of their feeling. Thus, if someone spits at the ground out of disgust, that is art. Suddenly, there are no universal norms, and art can be anything. Who's to say what makes something good art or bad art.
I can't deny that art is an expression. Usually an artist is inspired by something and they feel the impulse to express it. So yes, they are expressing a feeling. But what then, one might ask, is an inspiration?
A friend of mine recently just pointed something out to me on this subject. He wrote: 'Poetry for me (like all artistic beauty) is like capturing that feeling of "the first time"--a "first time" for real and personal joy. For that encounter when your spirit and the soul of the world met in profundity, and freshness.' What occurred to me is that inspirations are actually "first time" realizations that don't want to be kept in. Such a realization is so powerful that we are moved to express it.
But what does one realize? Do we not feel an amazing awe and satisfaction when something clicks in our head? When we finally understand some truth, discover some beauty or realize the good in something? The artistic process, I find, is one of such discoveries. It is a process of growth and learning. This is a very different image than that of the artist who splatters paint in constant angst and frustration. Not that art can't be used as an outlet for emotion. But the question is: Is it a process by which we grow as people, or is it one where we are captive to a vicious cycle of destructive emotion? Or, more simply put: Is it building us up, or breaking us down?
I think that making art is supposed to be uplifting experience. And I think that we need an ordered framework for that to happen. Just like cake batter will never find it's fulfillment without a pan. So too, I think that yes, art is an expression. But more specifically I think true art expresses our discovery and encounter with the truth, beauty and goodness of the world.
True expression cannot come without order. Only the truth will set us free. We couldn't live without objective Truths. That is what art is a testament to.