Lynda Lehmann : Art and Beauty
Art and Beauty
By Lynda Lehmann
For years I have been asking myself: "Why does beauty exist? Just why is there beauty in the world at all?" Our need as a species to groom, to acquire, to procreate, to hunt and gather, to stake out territory, all come from the survival imperative that has impelled us through the ages. But in addition to these more obvious needs of the human condition, there is a universal recognition, pursuit, and enjoyment of what we call "beauty." Though the apperception of beauty varies according to time, culture and temperament, it is nevertheless, pervasive and universal.
Whether there exits an objective validation or proof for the idea of beauty matters not, for if the perception of beauty is universally wired into our senses and intrinsic to the human mind, it exists as powerfully as if it had an objective life outside of us. The effect is the same: a compelling and powerful moment of arrested perception that illuminates our thoughts and impressions with an image, either natural or manmade, that moves us inexplicably.
I wonder if our "biologically unnecessary" recognition of beauty means that we were programmed to aspire towards the transcendent, the logical outgrowth of which is a belief in a higher power, rather than for mere survival. Though I do not believe in the generally divisive structures of organized religion, I believe our universal recognition and pursuit of beauty and our proclivity for wonder, so thoroughly programmed into the species, offer proof of the existence of God. How could magnificence be so universal and compelling, if not by design? Why would it exist, by virtue of evolution or any other force, if not to inspire us to recognize the higher values implicit in the idea of "Deity"?
I once heard the expression, "the metaphysics of cloth." This simple phrase resonated with a truth I had already recognized.In my experience, the beauty that occurs by chance or accident is often more beautiful than the beauty achieved by consciously manipulating an arrangement. Which is not to say that a painting (even in the "accidental" genre) isn't premeditated and planned as the artist ponders the visual presentation he/she would like to create. But perhaps the phrase should be amended to be more all-inclusive. "The metaphysics of everything" would be more accurate. The quality we call "beauty" is evident in every glimpse of the visible universe. Indeed, the ubiquitous beauties of the world seem to emanate from every chink and pore, as well as at levels too large or small to be apparent to the naked eye (i.e. both the telescopic and microscopic levels).
For me, the activity of creating art is an affirmation of life, a consciously nurtured joy in the miracle of form at all levels of the cosmos. The interrelationships among forms and organisms reveals itself at every level of nature. Each stage of organization, from the atomic and cellular, through tissues and organs, and up through organisms and species, is at once a microcosm and a macrocosm to the levels above and below it. I think it is this profound organization and similarity in form and function at every level of nature, this brilliantly orchestrated unity-in-diversity, that makes the forms of flowers, seashells and fractals appealing to so many people. It's not strictly the beauty expressed by the singular object, but also the relationship of its form to the greater "FORM" in nature, to the cosmic "WHOLE," that implies something more profound and far-reaching than a single moment of beauty. When something refers to eternity, evokes the infinite, we feel inspired, whether or not we tie those feelings to any specific view of God. •
© 2006 Lynda Lehmann. All rights reserved.
Lynda Lehmann studied Art Education at Penn State University and earned her BFA from Hofstra. More »