Consider the bower bird. They are known to be great mimics and the males build bowers, structures of twigs and found objects, by which they attract a mate. More involved than singing where some males sing very potent songs and attract females. This has been well studied by playing the songs and counting the number of copulatory postures in a female’s response. Bowerbird males, however, must construct their bowers and the ‘better’ ones attract females who then build a nest for the mating and egg laying, so the bowers are actually just a pretty place. Here is one:
And here is the handsome bird that builds such a thing:
The males build their bowers from twigs and each genus makes a different size and style. They also gather objects such as shells and colorful stones, sometimes stealing them from another’s bower, to place at the entrance. Now here are my questions. How does the male know when he is done? Certainly if a female comes over and confirms that he is the one for her, but before that blessed event, how does he decide to keep on going, rearranging sticks and the foyer objects? Instinctual guidance for sure based upon reproductive success, but the question of immediate decision still remains. And by what criteria does the female judge the bowers and select her mate? Presumably some features of construction relate to reproductive success.
Human art is symbolic so the degrees of freedom in the artistic choices are much, much greater, and the judgements of both when the artistic production is complete and how to appreciate the work are much more complicated, but a similar instinctual process, albeit through an intuitive and symbolically mediated choice, lies at its inception. I think both artist and bird must go by some feeling for what they want the object to become. In any event, well done, bower bird.