Judith Schaechter on "Beauty"

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Tim Tate and Judith Schaechter in DC

With the Washington Post writing a review about the guilty pleasures of some of the artwork in the WGS show at Long View Gallery – “isn’t contemporary art supposed to be ugly…?”

Superstar stained glass artist extraordinaire – Judith Schaechter – wrote about this very subject as a paper she presented at the last Glass Arts Society conference – titled “Beauty & the Beef” .

She has a version of the paper on her blogLate Breaking Noose - which includes comments like:

“why did beauty go out of style in the art world?

First of all technique, materials and process became an issue. After the Industrial Revolution, a pernicious mind/body split became manifest in the art world. One might observe that mass production was, in part, to make things more democratic—decent plates and bed sheets for the proletariat at last! But at a cost—I don’t just mean that machine-made things are bereft and depressing. They ARE bereft and depressing (as the social experiment with public housing so deftly illustrated) or “objects always reflect the character of their maker so when that maker is a soulless automaton, you will be eroding the human condition” I do believe that, but perhaps that’s an argument for another day. —But I refer to the unwinnable contest between hand and machine—I am saying when machines do it cheaper, beauty becomes a social and economic battle and extremely undemocratic as unique human made objects (objects made with love and intelligence) are mostly available only to the wealthy (and those who can make them, of course!). Albeit, beautiful objects have always been more valuable and the better they are the less affordable. So status is always lurking in the margins making kind, generous, liberal people very uncomfortable. When the middle class arose, it was out with the “wall bling” and in with the Wal-Mart.”

Judith recently taught a creativity workshop at the Washington Glass School.

Click here to jump to her full blog posting.

Darwin & The Concept of Beauty

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The recent Washington Post article about the 10 Year Anniversary Washington Glass School exhibition at Long View Gallery brings up notions of beauty – where critic Michael O’Sullivan questions if contemporary art must be ugly – if only to be less superficial – had me looking into what defines beautiful – or at least the “culturally conditioned concept of beauty”.

Philosophy professor Denis Dutton (and the editor of Arts & Letters Daily) suggests that humans are hard-wired to seek beauty. In this TED talk on the notion of beauty, Prof Dutton collaborates with animator Andrew Park to illustrate his theory on beauty — that art, music and other beautiful things, far from being simply “in the eye of the beholder,” are a core part of human nature with deep evolutionary origins.

Robert Pirsig delved into similar concepts in his 1974 book Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance . But certainly there’s more to it these days than just appreciation of well made things. Or understanding of value connectedness or whatever it was that Pirsig described. More so than ever these days, higher value is placed upon appreciation of things that make the patron/viewer feel special, smart, successful. Its the reason we like challenging & complicated works of art, with symbolism, context and references that invite us to figure them out. (Challenging, but not too challenging that we can’t figure it out.) Its valued more when there is a bit of work or effort invested.