esthetic aesthetics

Last summer I worked at an exhibition that was closed off to anyone over the tender age of sixteen and held works by famous and infamous artists alike. Whoever came in had the option to buy and show their love to the work they appreciated most. Most guests were between six and eleven. On my first day I thought, ‘finally, someone wants to purposefully overlook or research the aesthetics we were taught were good and proper.’ It questions our grown up aesthetics, it questions ‘taste’, as we see it.

The most popular picture was a horse nursing its foal, drawn in a rough and child-like hand, with a green polka dotted background. The least popular was a picture in muted colours of a dishevelled looking vase. The latter was obviously done by one of our most famous artists.

When the curator came by checking out the progress, I was left so disappointed to hear his disdain for the horse picture (which I loved) and praise for that one kid who chose that obvious famous picture. ‘What refined taste, he has!’

While high-fiving yet another six-year old that fell in love with the candid horses, all I could think was, ‘what thirteen-year-old has such dull taste?’ But that is my taste, I know it and I refuse to believe that either his taste or mine can be good or bad, it just is.

But why is a picture that is rudimentary drawn and communicates such a natural and pure beauty, considered ugly, tasteless? Why is realism so highly valued? Why is a cheerful polka dotted background childish? And why is a beige sad vase good and beautiful (because it was drawn by a famous artist?)

Of course this kind of dualist idea of taste is also applicable in fashion, language, and basically anything that has the dualist connotations of being able to be bad or good.

Taste is incredibly subjective and the meanings we give colours are obviously marked by the society and time we live in. Yet in this culture and time we find yellow and bright patterns cheerful and muted colours sad. Then why are we so hell-bent on raising muted colours (or rather yet no colour at all) to the statue of ultimate high-class taste? In very oversimplified terms; what kind of world finds sadness tasteful and cheerfulness tacky?

An example that shows our warped view of taste is Greek and Roman sculpture. In school we were taught to see the white marble, idealistic statues as the foundation and the prime example of good art, and good taste. Yet, when it was recently discovered that the statues were actually painted in bright colours and bold patterns many (including art historians) flat-out refused to believe our amazingly cultured Greeks and Romans, aka the supposed foundation of Western “civilised” life loved such a bold combination of colours, despite strong evidence.

In this video the last man talking says: ‘When you see these bright colours, you see how much more human this time was. People like bright colours. They, like, see stuff; they’re like oh that place looks cool let’s go in there!’

According to him, this culture liked cheerfulness and that makes it real, that makes them human. He says it with a sort of disdain as if living, breathing and feeling is in bad taste. A warped culture we live in.

I don’t even want to get into the implications our ‘good taste’ has on the way we see other cultures that value bright and bold patterns, colours and spirituality. (I’ll give you a hint: racism.)

Of course the world isn’t black and white. Neither is it only red, yellow and blue either. And though Western culture is dualist, our world isn’t.

11 Comments

  • What an interesting post! I love the image of famous greco-roman sculptures in polka dots and lime green, haha! I kind of want a teal and yellow pinstriped Pieta tee shirt, now that I think about it. DIY idea, aww yeah! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    China Lily

  • Wow, I had no idea about the Greek statues. The bright colours really give a whole new feeling to each sculpture. I love it! Never give up your taste for bright and clashing colours, it’s what makes this blog so fun!

  • Your story reminds me of my own experience with an art teacher who pretty much had a go at me for picking out a book both because it was called “drop dead cute” and the fact that the colour palette was candy colours- she questioned whether i had any kind of good taste and i became so embarrassed by being shown up in front of the whole class, I never brought anything else in again (well, nothing that reflected my actual taste). People also have this stigma against someone who are considered mature to still have ‘childish tastes’ – which is strange because so many are also so afraid of aging. It’s all so contradictory.

  • I love this post! It was really, really interesting, especially the bit about that museum exhibit. That sounds fascinating! I really needed to hear this too because I really love pop culture and a lot of my taste is bright, graphic and pop-y and I always feel like I need to hide it or pretend like I don’t take it seriously and that I like the dreary stuff better. I DO enjoy other aesthetics, but the truth is that my taste is just pop! No shame! No fear! Love what you love!

  • Gorgeous!!! The pink dress is stunning!!! ANd Love your buns!!!:D How did you match it? so great!!:D

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