Saturday, June 11, 2005

expressed in exaltation

A common understanding or definition of beauty seems difficult to achieve, if even possible. I, typically, have tended toward the transendentals and defined beauty through reference to the true. This could be formulated as: beauty depends not so much on what we might call "pretty" as on what is true, or "conformity to reality." However, I still hesitate with this theory because sometimes what is true is also harsh or apparently ugly. So is the recognition of beauty something which is learned? Is it an intellectual acknowledgement that this thing is true and thus must also be beautiful? This is not our experience. Our experience of beauty is of something unavoidable, we do not choose it, but are overwhelmed by it. It is an immediate and sometimes physical experience, present upon interaction with the thing. Mark Rothko, a Russian abstract artist, devised an impressive synthesis of these two lines of thought. He calls the experience of beauty "a reaction to rightness . . . whose recognition produces an exaltation." Can there be a better description for that fantastic moment in which beauty is faced?
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