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Provo City School District

Edgemont Elementary School

Last modified: September 15, 2020

Reflection on Aesthetics, Beauty, Taste and What is Art?

Lisa Garner

Art, Aesthetics, Beauty Reflections

It is in my nature to want sunshine, sometimes with white, billowy clouds scattered throughout the sky. I consider these days to be heavenly beautiful. Yet in comparing sunsets on these days to sunsets when it’s been overcast, stormy, or even smoggy—days that I haven’t always considered desirable, instead bleak, threatening my good mood—it is breathtakingly beautiful to see a patch of blue sky grow, the sun emerge and cast incredible colors on the clouds around them. I wonder at that particular beauty and think, “Which is lovelier, a sunset on a clear day, or a sunset on that day which has been cloudy?” The answer is, “Both are beautiful in their own right.” I feel a sense of wonder at how each evokes different feelings of reverence, lightness, even joy.

Art is all around us in the simple beauties of everyday life. As humans, we strive to understand it, to imitate and capture it, and to quantify it. The art we create with our hands and bodies has always been, and I submit, will always be, the expression of a myriad of emotions and experiences that are far too complex to capture in writing. Poets have and will continue to try. Songwriters, scientists, even children, have and will continue to try to express the deep inner stirrings of the soul that we call art. We have been created and it is natural that we create, even though in this life, we will often feel it falls short.

When I compare my view of art in the past to my view as I’ve matured and been exposed to various arts forms and the justification for calling them, “art”, I see my perspective somewhat comparative to my view of the beauty of a sunset on a sunny day, verses one emerging on a seemingly dismal, cloudy day. I used to view art as only being worthy if it followed the classical definition, like a beautiful blue sky. I love classical art, dance, music, and theater, and always will. Yet, now I think of works such as Dorothea Lange’s photos during the Great Depression, Sergei Polunin’s “Take Me to Church” or of every day objects, as great works of art. Songs with dissonance instead of harmonious notes, have often turned me off, yet presently, I’m singing one in my choir, “The Peace of Wild Things” and see that the song wouldn’t convey the message adequately without using this style of composition. Even the transformation of my students’ work over the course of the year, starting with hardly any skill, then blossoming like a butterfly from its chrysalis, is now considered by me to be really, truly, art. I have learned that not all art comes from making perfect sense, balance, or order, even creating the “ethereal”, as it would seem in classical art forms. Like the patch of blue sky discovered on a dark day, I find it, kneel down, and am grateful that I have learned that some of the most beautiful artful moments and the art expressed as a direct outcome, do come from that which doesn’t always make sense, or that which seems ordinary, even that that comes amidst the great darkness. Yet in transcendent manner, finally, not a second too soon…it emerges as a patch of blue, amidst the shadows. And I am at peace.