Wednesday, February 16, 2011

discovering beauty

can you think of the last time you had an aesthetic experience? what does that even mean?

have you ever noticed that the way the rain droplets fall and create bigger droplets that fall even more catch the light from the cars in front of you and look really pretty? what about a sunset that practically looks like a rainbow, but the clouds are illuminated just enough that it looks like they have colored streaks lining them? or maybe you were laying upside down on your bed and noticed that the towel hanging over the door had a beautiful curve in the way that it folded and it made you almost want to cry?

all of those examples are my personal aesthetic experiences over the past few years. these moments of beauty i rarely forget. can you think of the last time something like this happened to you?

i think i should rename my "inspiration book" and "inspiration folder" to be "aesthetic book" and "aesthetic folder" because that's what my collection of images do; they provide me with inspiration. i get lost in the images and they remind me of things that happened to me a long time ago, happy memories.

i was working on my midterm this morning and i found this beautiful artwork by Marcel Duchamp (yeah, that Duchamp; outrageous, cross-dressing, offensive, and famous)

You go up to the door...
Peep in...
And find yourself looking into this beautiful world...
Etant Donnes by Marcel Duchamp

apparently he was working on this project in secret, as he feared that all of his artist friends had given up on creating.

what really fascinates me is that the mysterious nature of certain unknown places can create a ficticious aesthetic experience, too. for example, when i read The Secret Garden for the first time, the secrecy of the garden (the children couldn't find the key) described by Frances Burnett made me construct the perfect garden in my mind; one that is secluded, but has all sorts of treasures inside, waiting to be discovered. however, when the kids go inside, the garden seems dead and desolate, only to be resurrected with some tender love and care by the children who discovered it.


gardens generate a lot of aesthetic experience for me. one such instance was a google search which led to a trip to the Goddess Garden Atlanta (which is literally downtown). when i visited, i didn't see any flowers that had bloomed, everything was dormant. but i imagined that it would be a beautiful sight to see when spring came. i was lucky enough to get there when the sun was going down, and there was a small patio off in the distance that had strings of christmas lights hanging in a square around it, and it looked so quaint and inviting and it became an inspiration to me.

does anyone remember the first time they read the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe? or the magician's nephew? cs lewis inspired me so much that i wish that i had discovered my own alternate world.


another example is from jonathan adler's book, my prescription for anti-depressive living. he was inspired to become an interior designer because his brother had a "secret fort" and wouldn't let him go inside. he begged his brother to tell him about it and his brother lied and said that it was the most extravagant place in the world. jonathan would daydream about it a lot, what it looked like and how luxurious the items inside would be. one day, he snuck inside and it turned out to be really lame, but the idea of the mystery of the interior is what drove him to become an interior designer; with each new project that he tackles, he pulls inspiration from that secret fort and the space he designs essentially becomes that fort.

when i was little, my best friend had the coolest house ever. her mom was so creative and let us experiment with all sorts of materials (i remember decorating graham crackers with frosting to look like girls in sleeping bags!) i distinctly remember the layout of the house. even to this day, it's still my dream house. the porch wrapped around the front and had toys scattered all around it (they had a lot of kids in their family) and the front yard, which was fenced in. there was a crawl space in the playroom that we loved to play inside of. she had her own beautiful bathroom with lots of windows and posters of colorful dolphins on the wall. i was so jealous. my fondest memory is of a birthday party her mom threw for her once that was a treasure hunt. treasure hunts, gardens, and crawl spaces all seem to have the best aesthetic experiences for me. i recall using the clues to dig up our treasure and it was the best thing in the world. i recently met up with my friend (13 years later), and learned that the house had burned down. i was so disappointed. but the memories and the exaggerated perfection of that place still stands out in my mind as the type of environment that i would like to have my kids grow up in some day.

on of my elementary teachers organized "camp kumba" on a piece of property not far from our montessori school which later became the campus for the older montessori students. she also made a treasure hunt for us, and i still have some of the trinkets that we found from that hunt. my parents visited us when we were midway through the hunt and my mom claimed the elf salt shaker that was in our treasure haul. it's still sitting on the shelf in her living room. i claimed a tiny faux silver little beetle charm with a pink crystal on it. i still have that charm today.

sometimes when i find a place that is beautiful, my mind takes a snapshot of the immediate details; the way things are laid out, where certain things like trees or columns go, and i find myself rediscovering this place in my dreams. dreams are notorious for exaggerating the truth, but isn't that what aesthetic experience does to us, too?

we remember the rain drops with red car light streaks going through them in detail, but the moment i realized, 'wow, this is beautiful', is when it was imprinted on my mind forever. how many of us actually find the beauty in such a situation?

please, share some of your experiences or mysterious and inspiring places with me
-katie

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