Monday, March 4, 2013

Can something fail to be clean and pretty but still be beautiful?

Can something fail to be clean and pretty but still be beautiful?  Perhaps a town can.  A student of mind talks about her home-town of Nipomo which she finds beautiful to her, even though not pretty, and failing to have luxurious buildings or decorations.  She finds "beauty in the mundane nature of Nipomo."  Its beauty is partly a function of its own personality.  She finds it "comforting" and that it has a certain charm, and indeed more aesthetically pleasing, for that reason, than some larger cities.  Often I find that students see beauty as something very personal, contrary to Kant's idea that it involves universality.  Kant insists that we put something on a pedestal for all to appreciate.  Yet this student does not expect everyone to appreciate her little town.  Ironically, Dorothea Lange's famous photograph of a migrant farmworker "Migrant Mother" was taken in Nipomo in 1936. 

Another student discusses a cartoonish poster of the Golden Gate Bridge. He writes:  "The artist makes the drawing multidimensional instead of flat.  In the drawing, the background is a sunset...The color of the sunset and the sky is sherbert-like, not what you would see in a typical sunset.  There are also cars on the bridge, but the colors the artist used are not typical car colors.  The artist used uncharacteristic colors for cars such as green, pink and yellow...When I look at the picture, I think of beauty and it invokes peace within me....more peace than a realistic drawing or painting of the Golden Gate Bridge... [also] the artist's use of her imagination makes me feel happy."  The student concludes "While my thoughts may not be completely rational to some, I enjoy the drawing because it has sentimental value, for it has been around since I was born."  This comment captures some interesting features of kitsch and kitsch appreciation.  Many of my students who enjoy and defend kitsch refer to the evocation of inner peace as well as a feeling of happiness.  Sentimental feelings associated with having grown up with an art object makes this comment similar to the one above about a town that is not pretty but is beautiful.  I doubt that I would experience beauty, peacefulness or sentimentality in response to this work, but it is not clear to me that my response is any more valid than his.

No comments: