Beauty, Uglyness and Splendor

Rembrandt van Rijn, Lighting Study of an Elderly Woman in a White Cap  c. 1640

One of the hot topics at the last symposium was the need to understand the "ugly" parts of life in order to fully appreciate the beautiful.  In other words, there is a time and a place to dwell on the dark, difficult and unattractive.  In our journey as Christians, this is certainly important as well.  We cannot fully appreciate the resurrection and hope of Easter season until we have understood the dark humanity of the Lenten season.  We can relish in the light and beauty of Christ because we, ourselves, are far from that.  

As Kris often says, if he didn't preach from the Lectionary, he would probably stick to the easier (more "attractive" parts of Scripture).  I think this applies to my art-making.  I find that it's easier to showcase the beautiful and maybe even "safe" things in my paintings.  But my goal as an artist shouldn't be to stay "safe" in my work.  There may be times in your art-making where showing the ugly, the wounded, the scarred, the imperfections, the seams, the unattractive... is exactly what you and the world around you needs to see, in order to highlight pure and untainted beauty.

Can anyone think of examples of artwork that is meant to show off the 'ugly'?  Anyone exploring these themes in their own work?   

Two artists come to mind immediately for me: Rembrandt van Rijn and Laura Moriarity. 
Rembrandt's paintings, drawings and etchings are often attributed to being "timeless."  Most critics would agree it's largely due to his attention to capturing raw humanity in each piece.  His portraits often show off saggy skin, and in some cases - very unattractive double chins!  His color palette consists of deep shades of reds, browns and blacks.  Rembrandt was interested in capturing the deep emotions that give way to the ups and downs of life.  And that often meant trying to capture all the flaws.   

Another artist comes to mind: Laura Moriarity.  Laura builds up layers and layers of wax (which gets to be pretty expensive).  She covers up all of her colors and patterns and eventually scrapes it all off to make very 'ugly' installations.  Then, she'll shave off parts of the works to showcase the rings of colored wax beneath.  It's fascinating.  And I think it's a great example of purposefully making ugly art that makes you squeal with delight at the little spots of beauty.  It's magical.  And it's lavish.  Here's a video of her at work:

As we create in the last few days of the Easter season, let us be challenged to think about the beauty and splendor of God, without avoiding or forgetting the contrast of our own uglyness.  And as Jeff put it so well: "We get to marvel at the Good Creation through the effort of ordinary artists who are here among our community.  God is good.  He delights when we share with one another."  The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.  

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic, Shannon. Thanks for taking the time to write this. Good things to ponder indeed! Blessings