Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The beauty of.... well, Beauty!
I once entered a juried exhibit where the juror made comments that were sent back to the entering artist. I do believe one of my pieces was accepted, though I don't remember for sure. What I do remember is the comment the juror made about my work. He/she said the work was "too pretty" and it "would have made a stronger statement had I not made beauty an object of my work." I also remember noting how many ugly pieces there were in that particular exhibit. I never understood why the juror, also a fiber artist, had a preference for the ugly, the obscene, the dark and depressing; the work that uplifted neither the viewer nor, I am convinced, the creator. Nor did I think it could have uplifted the Creator.
Beauty is pretty much just defined as "something that is aesthetically pleasing," so of course it is subjective, or "in the eye of the beholder." There are certainly lots of cases where an artist sets out to create something beautiful, and may even feel they have succeeded, but other viewers may not see beauty in it.
So why am I thinking about beauty? I have been looking about me, in this long dark winter, searching for beauty, and it is very clear to me that beauty is of value to the Creator of this world, and that He wants us to see and appreciate it. We can read of artists and craftsmen in the Bible who were directly inspired by Him to create objects of beauty. When the ark of the covenant and later the temple were built, they were decorated at His instruction with gold images from nature and 'precious stones for beauty.' Some of the beautiful objects were put in the most holy place, where only the high priest and God Himself would see them. There was no structural or practical reason for the decoration. It was strictly meant to glorify and please God with it's beauty.
I decided long ago when I began making things, that I wanted to create work that was as beautiful as I possibly could make it be. Why would I want to spend time and resources making something that is not positive, that does not uplift the viewer and give any glory to God? I do know that some artists feel they have very good reasons to draw attention to the ugly side of life. In my role as guest curator for a number of exhibitions I have seen quite a few truly horrible and even frightening works. They did have some message, but I couldn't see that they needed to be so hideous. What an artist puts out into the world has the power to spread. My art goes places I will never see. It can spread fear, hatred, lust, and all the ugliness of the world like an infectious disease. Or it can bring joy, recall pleasant memories, and lift the spirit of the viewer, like the power of a sweet smile. I do not apologize for pursuing beauty in my work. If jurors and 'sophisticated' critics see it as 'too pretty,' they do not have the same motivation I have. My work is created not only to please the viewer; it is created to please the Creator.