THE REPRESSION OF Beauty?
When I read this quote by James Hillman last week, I almost cried. Really. After many weary years of feeling like a lonely beauty-esteeming voice in a beauty-despising culture (larger culture and fine arts culture), I was surprised by joy and fellowship they way a solo singer of a melody might feel when another singer unexpectedly joins in with a sweetly resonant harmony. At my fine art "re-launch" in October, 2016, I sang that melody (i.e., that beauty is important) during my gallery talk and used a clip from the film Shawshank Redemption to illustrate my point. See this post for the clip and for more on that idea. OK, enough from me - enjoy (and comment) on Mr. Hillman's words:
"The arts, whose task once was considered to be that of manifesting the beautiful, will [in our modern times] discuss the idea only to dismiss it, regarding beauty only as the pretty, the simple, the pleasing, the mindless and easy. Because beauty is conceived so naively, it appears as merely naive, and can be tolerated only if complicated by discord, shock, violence, and harsh terrestrial realities. I therefore feel justified in speaking of the repression of beauty."*
I think that one reason Hillman's words refreshed my heart so deeply is because I read them last week while on vacation and scouting for beauty on the Big Island of Hawaii. Dwelling for a time among such stunning natural beauty made Hillman's thoughts ring with greater clarity. The natural flora and fauna, the works on display in local art galleries, and even the architectural and landscape design on the Island speak of beauty. I was greatly refreshed not only with the presence of beauty, but with the conspicuous absence of ugliness! I didn't see a single rusty wad of contorted metal adorning anyone's front lawn as "art" or a sheet with human feces smeared on it hanging in any art gallery. Hillman's quote and my time on the Big Island refreshed me in one of my primary passions as an artist: to "manifest the beautiful." Hooray for art that is beautiful!
* James Hillman as quoted by John O'Donohue in his book "Beauty - The Invisible Embrace," p. 7.