Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I saw a fascinating video today.

I've been contemplating what it is that I can do that would draw a distinction between my work as art distinct from a simple garment.  What is it that I could do to make my garments "wearable art" instead of yet another piece of someone's wardrobe.  To be honest, I've been trying to find a mechanism that I could exploit to elevate my work form the ordinary.

So far, I've been trying to embellish most of my work with some form of hand-applied technique that comes directly from me, trying to push the individualism of each piece into the realm of the unique and singular.  I'm not really big on manufacturing, frankly.  There's something antithetical about manufacturing "wearable art" that seems to defeat the purpose in my head...  Variations on a theme are okay, and limited multiples that explore different possibilities are great, but manufacturing mass quantities seemed to erode the artistic expression, at least in my head.

But this video that I saw today really made me step back and think.  It's from a website called Big Think.  I need to explore it a bit more, but discussing and sharing the video is more important.

It's a short 5-minute excerpt from an interview with a graphic designer named Milton Glaser.  He's a Fulbright scholar,  and had several one-man shows in a variety of different museums and is recognized as an American icon in his career field.

Of specific interest to me was his understanding of the use of beauty in art.  Here's a quote from the interview:

"And everybody wants to be an artist because, in terms of status, there's almost nothing better you can be in almost any culture; basically, [this is] because art is terribly important as a survival mechanism for any culture. As a result, the people in primitive cultures who can create art as such are those who are highly respected. And that basically occurs in sophisticated cultures as well. But the only purpose of art is that it is the most powerful instrument for survival—art is so persistent in all our cultures because it is a means of the culture to survive. And the reason for that, I believe, is that art, at its fullest capacity, makes us attentive.
But if you look at a work of art, you can re-engage reality once again, and you see the distinction between what you thought things were and what they actually are. Because of that, it is a mechanism for the species to survive. And because of that, it is terribly important in human consciousness. I also believe, curiously, that beauty, which is very often something we confuse with art, is merely a mechanism to move us towards attentiveness. You realize we all have a genetic capacity and need to experience beauty, but beauty is not the ultimate justification for art. It is merely the device by which we are led to attentiveness."

If art is about drawing attention to something, then what are we drawing attention to when we don a piece of beautiful wearable art? Is it the beauty of the human form? The beauty of personality? The beauty of demonstrating tasteful choices?

Perhaps it is incumbent on us to think about why we dress the way we do, and to what we think we're drawing attention. Are we missing an opportunity in our attire to express ourselves? Are we using garments to simply cover ourselves, or can we use them as a means to draw attention to something more? And how do we do that most effectively?

Hm. Food for thought. Until next time, enjoy the short vid below (here's the link just in case) and Live Life with Relish!




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