While I was canoeing down the French Broad River last week, Ed Winkleman was hosting an open thread on "why everyone is so afraid of beauty". It is hard to imagine a deader horse, but there are often great nuggets to be found in these sorts of arguments nevertheless. At last count, there were 131 comments, so I will give you my highlights: Pretty Lady responded to j.t.'s assertion that "For me, beauty in art is an escape from the everyday crap that surrounds us." with
" 'Nope, nope, nope.'
That's the definition of kitsch.
'...it's the relationships between colors and forms that make them beautiful, rather than the colors and forms themselves. Radical contrast breeds excitement, complex harmony, and a beauty that is rich, deep and all-inclusive. Kitsch is about avoidance--it edits out any awkwardness, any reference to death and decay, to comfort the mind's fears. But great art puts in the death; great art accepts everything. And unconditional acceptance is a prerequisite for enduring peace.'
I don't think we're 'afraid of beauty' so much as it gives us a powerful feeling of superiority to dismiss it. Apprehension of great beauty is a cousin to awe, and awe engenders humility. Feeling humble is anathema to surviving in the shark tank of the NYC 'art world;' we must maintain our sense of contemptuous disdain at all costs. QED."
Franklin's favorite statement about craft "...comes from Renoir, who assures us with considerable irony that becoming a craftsman will not stop you from becoming a genius."
This discussion often seems to divide people into camps of formalism and conceptualism, as if they were mutually exclusive. My obsessive, perfectionist response to this debate is my oft-muttered-to-self phrase, "everything counts".
The book "Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward A New Aesthetics", edited by Bill Beckley and David Shapiro, was published in 2001. Although I wrestled for many years with fashion aesthetics (suppressing my vintage clothing fetish and makeup wearing to be "one of the guys" in art school), I have never wrestled with the decision of whether to forgo or reject beauty in my work, as illustrated in an article about my UGA MFA show (many moons before the afore-mentioned book, I might add, when the word was still "dirty").
(click to enlarge)