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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Beauty and the best

I started out the day reading Edward Winkelman's Artist of the Week post about Jennifer Coates and then read Bill Gusky's post Saltz on Beauty. And it started me thinking about the place of beauty in art.

Why has beauty bcome so maligned in contemporary art? I'm not talking about insipid, pretty paintings. I'm talking about true, gut wrenching, heart-melting beauty. It seems it is more acceptable to be moved by the beauty of a tree than to be moved by the beauty of a painting.

What has happened to us that we are more accepting of pain than healing? Is pain the only emotion that can be felt deeply. Have we become so blunted that only the most outrageous passions and atrocious pains can reach our sensibilities?

It takes thought to unravel the beautiful. It takes an acknowledgement of the deliberate choices that an artist makes. Surely, we as artists, shouldn't have to rely on a megaphone to get a point across.

7 comments:

the fourth samba said...

Got here via Ben, great thinkings! Totally agree. Yesterday I read an article on Beatriz Milhazes and that was all she talked about, beauty, and her push for it in painting.
There's a lot in this subject to talk about, but I remember being in school and my professor saying to me "...You know there are a lot of people dying out there..". You know, almost as if to say beauty is quasi barbaric to indulge in this world. But beauty is quite healing. The same professor would at times look out the window and sigh "...wow! look at those clouds...that's just beautiful!"

Susan Constanse said...

Yes, beauty can be healing.

And I don't think that just because you are choosing to present beautiful work that you are ignoring the ills of the world. I prefer to look for health and solutions rather than add to the impetus of anger by giving it more life.

the fourth samba said...

Exactly, and in a sense by choosing beauty we are dealing with the ills of the world by simply counteracting them rather than, as you said it, giving it more life.
It's complex, you know, I'm surrounded by groups of kids (my students) who constantly live in an environment of visual, verbal, physical and auditory agression via video games, songs about murder and drugs, harsh words, etc... And to some it perhaps makes them feel a bit sane that their environment is related elsewhere and not just in their world. So in that there may be a comfortability about the ills of the land. And simultaneously there's a desire for things to be beautiful in all of this, for instance, music has to sound "good", be "pleasurable", video games have to be up to par as graphics are concerned, they have to be interesting, kids are always decked out with very "inventive" and beautiful outfits... The more I find out about them the more they reflect a certain sense of ying yang, where good and evil NEED each other. It seems to be a belief system within unbeknownst to them.

Lisa Hunter said...

I think some people are suspicious of beauty because it's so often used to sell us things. Unfortunately.

There's a book you might want to read called Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in 20th Century Art. I found it a bit theoretical and hard to read, but it's definitely an interesting topic.

Susan Constanse said...

my head is a little fuzzy today, i have a cold, but...

fourth samba -
Beauty is a complex issue. And you and Lisa are both right about the commercial appeal of beauty and its insipid cousin pretty.

Lisa -
Too true! And yours was the second reading recommendation I've gotten. I need to get to a bookstore.

RBrown said...

I agree that beauty has taken second fiddle to other considerations in the 20th c, but there were exceptions - Matisse for one. Rothko's work also, I think is incredible beautiful, but in a different way, more mysterious, not so much having beauty as a subject matter like Matisse, but more like beauty being a result of Rothko's search for an inner peace.

richb said...

I agree that beauty has taken second fiddle to other considerations in the 20th c, but there were exceptions - Matisse for one. Rothko's work also, I think is incredible beautiful, but in a different way, more mysterious, not so much having beauty as a subject matter like Matisse, but more like beauty being a result of Rothko's search for an inner peace.