Monday, July 14, 2008

Beauty in Art

There seems to be an ongoing debate about whether or not good art is beautiful. A lot of artists don't see the expression of beauty as a worthwhile pursuit unto itself anymore. Others see little point in creating anything that does not reflect upon the beautiful and amazing things that this world has to offer. Should art be beautiful or not?

I think that it is difficult to deny the role of beauty in art. It is not the only matter worth pursuing, but over the course of history artists have sought to better define and reshape beauty ideals in their work, building upon previous ideals while finding beauty in new and different things. As this occurs, cultural ideas of what is and isn't beautiful are reshaped and reformed into new ideals. Many viewers enjoy beauty in art because it allows them the opportunity to enjoy and reflect upon something better than, or at least different from, the humdrum of their daily lives. Art has always provided both a respite from and a better awareness of the everyday by offering a glimpse into a life other than our own or a view of the things that are taken for granted, and many means of expressing these ideas center around conveying or contemplating the beautiful.

The other questions that arise concerning the topic of beauty lie in how we determine what is and isn't beautiful. A lot of this is influenced by cultural presumptions of what is beautiful. For example, the female body has become an iconic symbol of beauty while the male form has been all too often neglected in our mainstream culture. This was not true in ancient Greece - both male and female nudes were portrayed. And even now other cultures view very different things as beautiful, some focusing less on the human form and more on pattern or landscape. Thus we all convey beauty in very different ways.

Even within our culture, not all people find the same things attractive. Some are drawn to darker subjects and find beauty in the macabre. Others find beauty in organization, pattern, repetition and/or rational thought. Still others find beauty in pure moods and feelings, responding to colors and movements that elicit an emotional response. And many find beauty in more traditional forms such as majestic landscapes, expressions of human joy, flowers, still life paintings, and so on. Beauty is as unique as the individual determining what is beautiful, for all that his/her sense of beauty is likely influenced by the culture in which he/she resides.

For my part, I believe that not all good art needs to be deep or unattractive or brooding or difficult to understand - it can be beautiful. I find myself drawn to different things depending on my mood. This affects how I approach beauty in my own work as well. In regards to the more conceptual pieces, if an idea would be best conveyed in a beautiful manner or as a reflection upon beauty, then I find creating something beautiful to be an integral and necessary part of my work. Sometimes I find it nice to just focus on making something beautiful for beauty's sake as opposed to expressing some loftier idea, and there is nothing wrong with that approach either. Much of my jewelry arises from this desire. And at other times I want to express something dark and brooding or something that I perceive to be wrong or disjointed in our society, in which case I may actively seek to avoid making beautiful art (unless that idea would benefit from the contrast). So, even in my own work, beauty plays very different roles but is still a consideration regardless.

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