Artistic Appreciation with Age

As I get older, I see beauty everywhere.

It wasn’t always this way.  When I was in my teens and 20s, I had no interest in a natural setting.  I found no special enjoyment from a mountain or river scene, unless it was of the extreme Ansel Adams variety.Image

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, by Ansel Adams for the National Park Service.


Now I can look at a lake and feel peaceful.  A waterfall holds my attention and an Olympic athletic performance keeps me riveted as never before. That change alone has added to my enjoyment of life.  I finally appreciate those things my parents and all the people around me have enjoyed for their whole lives.  The change has not stopped there and this is where I find things shifting to the absurd.


I now find beauty and interest all around me.  I still find some things much more attractive than others, such as the photo below.


Tribute to Man Ray by Guy Le Baube (1994)


When I look around, I see beauty in the random patterns of wood flooring, in a chaotic pile of driftwood, in a broken down desk.  I take joy in the artistic unattractiveness of an enormously fat person on a scooter,  smoking, with bad skin and stains on their shirt.  It makes me want to take a picture.  I find cheaply made items, broken golf clubs and plastic toys from the 90s and I want to capture the image.  I don’t even want to make a statement about them.  I have no message to send, just the joy in the image.  I want to see them for what they are.  In doing so, I enjoy them.  As my joy in the simple and unimpressive has grown, I fear I am becoming like that kid in the movie American Beauty.  He describes a plastic bag blowing around as the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.  I have ridiculed this for years and I disliked his character intensely.  Now I’m not about to call something like that the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, but I understand what he is saying.  I have to accept this is the one way street my mind has chosen to travel.


If this continues, I will find beauty in a plain white light switch on the wall or in the dust bunnies on the floor.  I find if I stare at something long enough it starts to grow on me and I see it as artistic.  I never understood the appeal of distressed wood (why damage something intentionally?), but now I find it may add to a table.  Perhaps I will appreciate the modern art paintings of a red square on a white canvas in another ten years.  Maybe on my deathbed I will appreciate the unpainted canvas alone.  I have always looked upon this sort of art with horror.  As a kid, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup paintings seemed a waste of time.  Now I love them.  Diane Arbus photographs of everyday people appeal to me now more than ever before.


Though my opinions of art have spread far and wide, I find greater beauty in specific wonderful pieces more than in the everyday.  The beauty of the truly stunning has become so great in my eyes I stand transfixed when I see it.  Put a couple of drinks in me a I have to own it, to make it a permanent part of my life.

De gustibus non disputandum est.

(Roughly translated, there’s no accounting for taste.)


Here is one of my favorites:


The Weight of Water, Part 3 by Tara McPherson, 2008


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