Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eye of the Beholder? Not Really.

One of the greatest things I have come to embrace and appreciate about my upbringing was the emphasis on the world of the arts. My mother would arrange field trips to the symphony, ballet, theater, and art gallery openings. I remember walking through these great places with my little jaw on the ground as I would be in awe of the creativity and beauty that was around me. However, when it came to seeing what was considered modern art, my jaw would continue to be on the ground but it would be out of frustration and not awe. It seems like these two different jaw dropping experiences seem to be people's reaction to art created these days, either people love the skill and out of the box approach the artist took, or indignation is present because of their prejudices of what art is to look like.

Yes - love or hate. . . perhaps indicative of the ever-present question: "Is beauty REALLY in the eye of the beholder?" After all, Paul tells us in Philippians to think on things that are "honest, pure, LOVELY" etc. So what are we supposed to think about?

God Himself recognizes beauty; at the creation, He identified His handiwork as "good." Most people claim that they see something in nature as beautiful, whether a sunset, or the Grand Canyon, or the surf crashing against the rocks. They are expressing some of what God also expressed.

If beauty is a Biblical concept, then how do we recognize it? What does its opposite look like? And since beauty is Biblical, isn't it reasonable to say that non-beauty (ugliness) is unbiblical - or perhaps even anti-biblical?

And so, all that to say that there ARE standards of beauty; some modern art is beautiful and some - well, some is just plain ugly. . . (and some probably doesn't even qualify as art). Some art is Biblical (even if it doesn't portray a Bible scene); some is thoroughly anti-Biblical in the ideas, messages, and thoughts it presents.

The trick is digging deeper to find out just WHAT those standards are. And then think on those things. One clue that helps me: does a specific piece of art draw me to the Great Creator/Artist? Does it encourage me to think on Him in some way - even if it's just to say "That's a beautiful painting; thank you, Lord."

Back to either loving or hating modern art. . . Many issues are involved, including education in the arts. Too many of us never have really been properly educated about art (modern or otherwise), with all its subtleties. And with continuing budget cuts to the arts programs in the schools, I don't expect the situation to get much better anytime soon. (I'll list some recommended resources in a separate blog.)

Many who hate it probably do so from the viewpoint of "I know what I like." We should all have opinions and preferences. But just because you don't like a certain artist, or style, or era doesn't mean that it's bad art or "just not art at all." You're entitled to your opinion - but try to keep an open mind about artistic ability - even if a certain piece isn't your personal preference.

Many who love it probably do so without discernment, without believing that there ARE objective standards of good & bad, beauty & ugliness, just like there are objective standards of right & wrong. Too many believe the lie that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We live in a subjective world, where everyone's opinion is equally right - even if its wrong.

More on art, beauty, and aesthetics in a later post.

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