What's Wrong with Pretty?

September 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I don't quite understand the current state of art. Maybe I missed something, but sometimes it feels as though it's more about shock, overwrought subtext, or deliberate weirdness. Admittedly, art is highly subjective and there's enough appeal that this new school of art is popular (12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark, anyone?) and profitable. At the High Museum in Atlanta, I strolled past a selection of contemporary paintings, baffled. A square canvas painted plain white? Another with just a stripe? I just couldn't get on board - neither could my mom, who at least has some cred in being an art history major.

 

Without intending to ignite an existential debate, sometimes I wonder what has become wrong with just wanting to create something where the primary purpose is to exist as a thing of beauty. No subtext, no shock. Perhaps that's not enough in our largely over-stimulated current world. I also find it interesting that once upon a time, art was simply referred to as such. Now we have the distinction of "Fine Art", as though just creating art has devolved to an endeavor below notice.

 

I think of Monet, Renoir, or Rodin, just to name a few classic artists whose works are admired the world over primarily for their unique beauty. It was after the long-running era of patronage, when an artist could finally create what was in the heart, not what the purse strings dictated. Admittedly, many of the greats are at least partly so because they initiated new techniques and styles. Not all were immediately well received in their day either, and we all know that some died poor and vastly unappreciated.

 

While I've begun exploring the arena of conceptual photography only recently, and I certainly don't fancy myself the new Monet, some days I simply want to create something beautiful without over-thinking it. Whether it may be a portrait, a sweeping vista, or a simple still life, I hope that a viewer will at least enjoy a few moments taking it in. If they take away a deeper feeling, then that's all the better. However, not everyone will find the appeal of simple beauty, hence the whole eye-of-the-beholder saying. Some will find it dull or trite, or that it simply does not speak to them. I just hope that the descriptor of pretty (or beautiful), is not permanently a dirty word in the art world.


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