Chapter 5: Beauty: Allowing Magic to Happen
How to Make Your Creative Dreams a Reality:
Strategies to Cultivate Your Talent
Beauty: Allowing Magic to Happen
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of art and the metaphysical properties of beauty. As an object maker I apply emotional and technical skills to create works of art that people can relate to and derive pleasure from. The more personal my interpretations of nature are, the more accessible my art will be to an audience across all cultures.
I believe that beauty and spirituality are entwined in a fascinating balance between craft, and imagination.
I’m not a student of philosophy; however, I’m constantly thinking about beauty in the context of my art. While writing this chapter I revisited a book titled “Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger.”I found works by Plato, St, Augustine, and Kant the most attractive from my point of view.
Plato, evaluated beauty to a higher realm, and expected viewers of works of art to bring an informed opinion about beauty that will enhance their experience.
St. Augustine was less interested in logical deductions related to beauty than was Plato, and more motivated by the spiritual realm – particularly by crediting God. St. Augustine wrote that God was responsible for elevating our senses to beauty, and that beauty was inextricably linked with virtue, truth, and thoughtfulness. In short, all these elements of beauty celebrated the Godly realm.
Kant’s philosophical territory is both vast and complex, and when he talks about the inherent beauty of an art object regardless of function, it is easy for me to relate to his attitude. For example, when I craft small-scale sculpture as homage to the plant kingdom, I am not concerned with botanical accuracy; it’s about a personal response to how the poetry of nature touches my soul. The challenge is to translate my emotional experience to the glass and thus share my ideas with the viewer.
As an artist, it’s beneficial to understand Kant’s and other philosophers’ thoughts on beauty. It compliments working with my skilled hands celebrating ideas through the mystery and magic of the creative process.
Beyond the material’s memory, spontaneity plays a special role in my pursuit of expression. The spontaneity associated with risk taking can teach creative people ways to present ideas.
In my artwork, spontaneity facilitates my most successful work. It’s not about getting it right -- it’s about allowing magic to happen.
My artistic maturity has evolved with my relationship with object making. The process has showed me ways to balance beauty with truth to the material, skilled craftsmanship, and personal expression. I’ve been fascinated by what I perceive to be a magical result under the heading of spontaneity.
One of my core beliefs is, in order to do excellent work, you have to know what excellence is. My self-directed learning entailed not only 40 years of listening to audiobooks, but also seeking great work in museums that touched my soul.
Like St. Augustine, I think Beauty is the stuff of the mind that heightens our senses in praise of God. This is evident when over the course of my travels I’ve been introduced to beautiful art that touches my being, and leaves me perplexed.
Great work has a peculiar tension that can be mesmerizing. When I first viewed Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de'Benci at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., I was awe-struck by the painting’s beauty. The fact that Leonardo da Vinci painted it 541 years ago -- yet it feels so contemporary -- is mind-blowing.
When I first saw the flower paintings by American artist Morris Graves I was dumfounded. Graves lived in the Pacific Northwest and died at age 90 in 2001. I was introduced to his work in the mid-80s at the Whitney Museum and have been emotionally and spiritually touched by his genius.
I’m curious as an artist about the philosophy of beauty, although I recognize that my commitment to beauty is a small part of the ongoing philosophical dialog. Once the work leaves the studio it has its own reason to exist, and the historians and philosophers who study beauty will – if my work is significant, then they will place it into the aesthetics continuum.
A beautiful thing is never perfect.
– ancient Egyptian saying
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.
– John Keats