Monday, December 10, 2007

The Study of Beauty

The study of beauty is a duel in which the artist cries with terror before being defeated.
--Charles Baudelaire

Well, Monsieur Baudelaire garnered attention in the 1800's because the subjects of his poems were scandalous, but this quote is wonderful. What artist hasn't contemplated beauty? What artist hasn't struggled with his skills and available materials and tried to wrest a beautiful object from them?

What artist hasn't been defeated by this duel?

There are so many personal nuances in the definition of beauty. I won't bother trying to define beauty, but I do want to talk about the artist's struggle to portray it. I think all artists define themselves in relation to beauty, whether or not we want to admit it. Each stroke of a brush, each chip of stone, each gentle nudge of molten glass, all of these are made by an artist trying to define beauty in some way. Some end results are beautiful in a very "pretty" way, some are beautiful in a very soul-baring but not necessarily pretty way.

In the end, many of the things we create do define beauty in some way. Whether a particular piece of art is an affirmation of beauty or the antithesis of beauty, it lends boundaries to the concept of beauty. Whether a piece of art recreates the perfect, intricate details of a rose or reveals the inner soul of a withered rose of a human-being, it tells us something about beauty.

I don't make "pretty" beads. This is my own assessment, and the thought that accompanies it in my mind and makes it acceptable to me is "but I make soulful, evocative art on occasion." Still, when you think about it, those soulful, evocative pieces of art are also expressions of beauty-- inner beauty. Each attempt adds to the definition of beauty, lends another image to the description of inner beauty.

Seems Monsieur Baudelaire was right about one thing-- the study of beauty is quite the inner duel for many an artist. It may not always make us cry with terror, but it sure does make us think, doesn't it?

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