Friday, December 4, 2009

About Beauty

The topic chosen for discussion by a group of artists I will meet with soon is “beauty”.

As my thoughts turned to the subject of beauty, “ugly” came to mind. As there are many variations amongst cultures and within cultures, and within the history of one culture, about what constitutes beauty, the same is true for ugly. I have stopped watching a number of television series because of scenarios too ugly for my taste. I have gotten used to violence on the screen but some shows became too graphic for me while they continued to be popular. Some people's thresholds for ugly are higher than mine. I read a book recently by an Afghan who described a beautiful woman whom the protagonist loved as having a most graceful hooked nose; one that might have seen the cosmetic surgeon’s hammer had she wanted to be found attractive in this culture that I was raised in. Marilyn Monroe would not be slim enough by today's standards if they are to be judged by clothing models.

My mother made me a dress when I was a very little girl of a fabric called “dotted Swiss”. It was printed with small, delicate and pale violets. More than anything else that I remember wearing, I loved that dress. And today when I see something — a wrapping paper, wallpaper, a painting, anything that looks like those violets, not only do I find it beautiful, I find it movingly beautiful.

I am going to refrain from drawing any conclusions here, and I will not write much more as I like to keep my posts appealingly short. I might go back to this one day because the thoughts about beauty (and ugliness) keep coming. For now I will leave you with some favored quotes:

Francis Bacon (the philosopher/writer, not the painter): “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”.
And along that line, Havelock Ellis: The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw.

Anais Nin: We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

Petrarch: Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.

Buckminster Fuller: When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

And finally, Jean Kerr: I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?

Allegiance, the collage/painting pictured above done in 2000, is about putting two oranges together to make them appear even more beautiful than they could be on their own.

To see miniature paintings available for sale, please click on Tinies and Butterflies.


  1. Great post, Joan! I'm loving my adorable pancreas this morning! Talk soon. XO

  2. I liked what you said about beauty. It's good food for thought. I've been thinking a lot about beauty and how it's related to truth. Can there be beauty in artifice?

    I'm sure it will be an interesting discussion on Tuesday!