What follow are my responses to questions about beauty on an internet forum.
My story begins in my late teens when I was obsessed with the concept of beauty. I remember writing long rants about it though I had nothing to rely on. It was something that had entered my mind in an intuitive sort of way and I do feel that it was a foreboding of my leap into spirituality. I will try and capture what my ideas on beauty have been since. Bear with me; this is tentative and I never was a student of aesthetics.
Since I became aware of beauty, I loved walking around town looking at beautiful old buildings and antiques in antique shops. In those days, it seemed that only old things qualified as beautiful. Looking back, I'm not surprised that the style of the 1980s repelled me! There is no way I can find beauty in it to this day. I soon came to the conclusion that there are some guidelines to beauty. First, a classic measure of sorts that is based in the platonic ideas of the perfect proportions. The second criteria has to do with the natural world - natural materia as well as a natural attitude seem more beautiful than artificial materia and fake behaviour. The third criteria is connected to the degree to which something or someone is soulful - in other words older objects seem more beautiful because they are impregnated with more energy and the traces of use while more profound people who know themselves will appear more beautiful than shallow people. The interesting thing is that while slick perfection can be pretty, it tends to lack interest. While proportions are important, the slight imperfection (the trace of a human hand, the uneven character of a wooden floorboard) often induces more beauty rather than taking away from it.
I've never attempted to map all this out before so it's sketchy, however I would say this is how I still perceive beauty. It seems to me that the same values can be transcribed to any level of existance. Ugly is thus artificial, fake, shallow, pretentious and so on. Brainless young bimbos with implants would thus not qualify! We are surely talking of other values in that case... But... You will surely argue that some modern items as well as young people can be very beautiful. I do agree. In fact I love a lot of modern things. The freshness of new things and new ideas, or people who are only just beginning to live! Yet if we look more closely I think we can find the above values attached to these things. A modern building can be very beautiful when it has been carefully and lovingly planned with natural materials and depth of thought, as well as using a good sense of proportions (something which I feel people felt intuitively in the old days but lost since functionalism in the 20th Century).
It seems to me that I've tried to transcribe these values to my artwork (proportions, depth, meaning, materia, vintage charm and so on). A few years ago my interest in photography escalated and I found myself seeking out interesting surfaces that would make for abstract photo artwork. I loved visiting the junkyard where I found rust and decay; these surfaces made for quite beautiful pictures. In my case it was not a question of just recording what I saw. First, I had to recognize potential. Then I had to choose angle and approach. After this, I still did things to the picture in photoshop. I was in other words elevating what I saw to a higher level of aesthetic experience. It was not so much a case of seeing beauty as seeing potential that could be turn into beauty with the use of a creative attitude.
The ability to see potential in things has been transcribed to my relationships. I've had a number of boyfriends that were diamonds in the rough, but never grew to bloom in full glory. The relationships ended and I realized I had to find someone who was already "something". This something mirrors an array of personal requirements, my subjective perception of a beautiful person. It's someone who is already by force of their own intervention a reasonably accomplished, profound and wise "old soul". I suppose that in the case of human beings there is so much soul and spirit that the desire for external beauty (the perfect proportions and so on) recedes into the background (well I appreciate external beauty but am not obsessed with it and don't need for it to be present in my personal life - this has been a bit difficult to deal with and I'm not done yet, however it's important that I get there). Sure it would be great to have it all but in this world, that would be a shallow attitude! I myself am certainly not the epitome of external beauty. But I hope my inner richness will make up for that in someone else's eyes. As we all know other people only mirror what we see in ourselves. So I wouldn't expect anything else from anyone.
There is just one more thing I'd like to add. In the 1990s as I got to know New Age people and the movement I was a bit surprised to find that aesthetically speaking, people chose glitter and slick looking pictures with space themes or otherworldly subjects. While some glitter and slickness is fine, too much of it becomes boring to me. I then realized that these people were indeed reaching for "other than this reality" and that it was a very different form of spirituality than what I was interested in. My career as an artist does reflect to a very high degree the aesthetics of this realm and a desire to express values connected to the earth. I don't think my preferences are particularly personal. I would think they are quite "integral" and universal in nature.
I do feel that some artists are meant to reveal the beauty in the most unlikely places. What many people would pass by an artist is able to capture and express in a way that helps other see something there as well. I love when you say "Beauty is not a device to create disharmony", lol, so very true! How often in this world beauty becomes a vehicle for selfish, egotistic pursuits. It's interesting how condemned a person can get for their lack of conventional beauty of the internet where people have little else but a buddy icon to go by. I've been ridiculed for my glasses! I assume that the same people would never say a thing in real life - let alone notice the eyewear. Still it signals a society that is obsessed with slickness and perfection at the expense of soulfulness.
Artwork: "Twists of Fate", handmade collage, copyrighted by author 2009