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RAYMOND J. STEINER
WE DONT HEAR the word beauty in conjunction with art much any more. Somewhere along the late 70s and early 80s the concept of beauty fell out of favor in cutting-edge art circles. Oh sure, you heard it now and then in relation to a particular work of art but mostly about an old work of art. It got so that no self-respecting critic would go so far as to claim that art ought to be paired with beauty though they grudgingly admit that it might have been deemed important to some benighted souls of the past. They argued cogently that the word defied definition, anyway. Who was to say that this is beautiful and that, not? An abstract concept, beauty is in all truth a shifty thing and what might be termed beautiful to one set of eyes might be just so-so to another if not downright ugly. The next step and it was not long before it was taken was to apply the same logic to art itself. Like beauty, art was soon bereft of all meaning, all import, since no one could agree on what it was least of all the critics. Still, whether my Uncle Louie thought my Aunt Em was beautiful while I thought she was something of a fright, does not necessarily imply that beauty as a worthwhile element is no longer of value. We might disagree even come to blows if we are passionate enough as to who made the most beautiful paintings, but again, it does not ineluctably follow that we ought to chuck the concept just because we cant agree on it. Likewise, we might disagree about the taste of foods but it would be a mighty brash person (or a taste-deprived one) who would claim that it was irrelevant and then take that next step to declare that since we also cannot agree on what constitutes edible comestibles, that it likewise has no definitive meaning that, in short, if you can get it down your neck that it is, in fact, food. Yet, here we are willing to accept that whenever some pundit declares something is art well then, it must be so, and we have to accept it as such no matter how it sticks in our craws. Funny, that. Well perhaps not funny but certainly an oddity. I personally dont get much amusement out of having to wade through a heap of so-called "art" to get to some of the genuine stuff or at least what I consider genuine. And, do you know what? The stuff I think is worth my time is more often than not something that is beautiful or at least what I consider beautiful. And, when I gnaw this over in my mind as I am often wont to do I just dont get it that beauty is not relevant either in art or in anything, for that matter. I think that beauty or at least the idea of it is pre-programmed into our very genetic make-up (I am tempted to say our "souls" but I fear Im already out on a limb with bringing up this beauty business). In short, Im convinced that we are "hard-wired" to respond to its presence. I also think that we not only are conditioned to seek beauty, but that its very possession (no matter our individual definition) is essential to our well being. I think we need beauty just like we need air and water and sunlight and food. A world without beauty is unthinkable to me and I want it in my art! There, Ive crossed the line! Color me retroactive I just dont care. Furthermore, I still think my Aunt Em could be a bit easier on the eyes.