Aesthetics (in small pieces)

“Red River, Moorhead (My Path to Enlightenment)” 1973 silver gelatin print

After all, aren’t aesthetics the ability to interpret emotionally and intellectually the sensory perceptions we receive through seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and taste? At that basic level everyone has an aesthetic standard. Whether it is Thomas Kincaid or Mark Rothko, Jonas Brothers or Mozart, feedlot or lavender field, lumpen clay or Henry Moore, red-eye gravy or beurre blanc; the ability to define, comprehend and appreciate the senses elevates our appreciation of life.

Artists aid our perceptions; there’s value in their work for the distillation they provide of the greater world. A reduction in cooking provides us with a rich and textured flavor. A painter also reduces his experiences so that the viewer will experience the pure essence of feeling the artist wishes to convey through their choice of color, subject, media, etc. Judgments of aesthetic value rely on the ability of our senses to discriminate; the rough from the refined, the appealing from the repugnant.

Don’t the value judgments really comprise two components, one of aesthetics and one of taste? Aesthetics are the philosophical ideas of beauty; taste relies on a level of education and a refined (read ‘elite’) cultural awareness. We must allow for all aesthetic experiences to be validated by the emotions they evoke; whether it’s pain, pleasure, disgust or love, they all deserve our attention and acceptance as valid experiences.

I can say I don’t care for Thomas Kincaid, but that does not invalidate the pleasure his art gives to many, many people. The Jonas Brothers make me want to go screaming from the room, but on the other hand, what harm are they really doing? (I love red-eye gravy, however, so don’t expect a comparison/contrast metaphor for it.) And really, there is a certain beauty and power (and complete sensory overload) in a feedlot that completely dwarfs that of a lavender field.

Let’s allow all of life’s experiences to be considered before we judge the aesthetic value of an artist’s work. It’s true, it may not be our ‘taste’ and from that platform judgments may be assessed, but let’s give everyone their due.


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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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