The Recognition of Art: Learning to Appreciate Its Beauty
Whether witnessing an act of kindness or taking a trip to an exotic island, it’s easy to identify when something is beautiful. Beauty can come in all shapes and sizes. But, is everything beautiful? As we become immersed in a world full of social media, we stray from what is truly beautiful. Social media has turned our idea of beauty into the amount of recognition you get on Instagram or how many Facebook followers you have. But, art can be used as a tool that can benefit you, if you continue to identify and appreciate it. John Armstrong specifically studied art using two different drives, the sense and the form drive. These two drives allow the individual to see beauty and know why is it beautiful. In “La bella vita” he discusses that in order to truly recognize what is beautiful, you need an equal balance of these forms to not take advantage of art, but appreciate it. If we use these two drives, art can show us what real beauty is.
Social media can give us false assumptions about beauty, but we can use the form drives to better identify and appreciate beauty. Today, most people do not recognize what true beauty is. Specifically with social media, the number of likes you get and the more attention you get from comments on posts, proves whether you are beautiful or not. If we continue to live in a world that is based on the recognition you get on social media, we will continue to be consumed by these false beliefs. When outside of social media, who you truly are, comes from the inside. Armstrong speaks of beauty and how Schiller, a German dramatist and poet strived to “…understand our delight in what we find beautiful” (2). To fully experience beauty, there are two different drives that are needed. There is the sense drive, which is targeted towards immediate gratification, longing to see things in our own eyes. Then, there is the form drive. This drive is logical, striving for abstract understanding and rational order. These two different drives, if equally balanced and interacting harmoniously, can help you experience beauty. But, the sense and form drive are often in conflict because, “Comfort and ease struggle against a sense of duty and responsibility” (Armstrong: 2). This conflict can be incredibly difficult because to balance the two, you want to see how art influences your life but also you also need to look at the scope, such as why this form of art was created. This idea applies to social media as well. Your automatic response when looking at pictures on Instagram is to identify the individual’s features to decide whether they are beautiful or not. When in reality, you need to look at the person as a whole, not just how they are portrayed on the internet. While social media can change our perspective on who someone is, we can learn that getting to know someone in person is beautiful in itself.
When meeting someone for the first time, you immediately look at their appearance. What they are wearing, what color eyes they have, and much more. You essentially pull them apart, unintentionally judging them as you continue to look at them. But, as you get to know the individual, you learn more about their personality, which is what really matters. Someone could look extremely unapproachable, and have the biggest heart of all. Look at this person, do they look approachable to you?
This is my friend Khelin. When I first met her, I was absolutely terrified of her. She looked way too cool for me and wasn’t the most approachable person. She seemed to have her life together, ready to get work done and become a doctor. But over this past year while getting to know her, I have learned that she has a heart of gold. Although she may look terrifying, she is one of the most happy, cheerful people you will ever meet. Her caring soul and sarcastic attitude makes you question why you were even scared of her in the first place. This taught me that beauty truly does come from within. Khelin may look like an intimidating individual but as her personality shines through, you get to know who she really is, a beautiful person inside and out.
Using different forms of art can help comfort us when we are suffering from loneliness and pain.When recovering from heartbreak, art can be used as a tool to assure us that we are not alone when we are struggling through a tough season of life. The School of Life believes art can make us less lonely. It makes us less lonely by, “…putting on a sad piece of music, somber works of art don’t have to depress us rather they can give us the welcoming feeling that pain is part of the human condition.” Welcoming the pain is important because it helps you accept that everything cannot be sunny skies and happy days. This song speaks to getting your heart broken, and the pain of loneliness you feel when you lose someone that you once loved.
“I’ve been washed away
With everything I’ve ever known
I loved you to your veins
So how come I’m alone?”
These lyrics to la song by Lewis Watson show the feelings of insecurity, sadness, confusion and loneliness. These are normal emotions to feel when you love someone and suddenly lose them. When listening to songs similar to this, it reminds the listeners that this feeling of pain is also what the artist of this song has felt before. If he had never felt it, he wouldn’t know what it really felt like and wouldn’t have written a song about it. When I went through my first heartbreak, I remember blasting this song 24/7. This was beneficial to me because it forced me to pay attention to my feelings instead of dismissing them. Sometimes in the deepest and darkest moments of your thoughts, it’s helpful to listen to these songs to acknowledge that you are suffering and it is normal to feel this way. If we were to ignore it, we would be forcing a happiness that is not genuine.
When life throws something like cancer at us or our loved ones, we are unsure what to do out of complete confusion. Thinking, “Why would this happen?” Art is way to comfort the pain of individuals who are going through chemotherapy, or suffering in a hospital in general. Liv Gagne specifically spoke about her friend from home that had been suffering from cancer. She had been in and out of the hospital, receiving chemotherapy. In the hospital, there were giant glowing murals and changing colorful walls, making it a safe and comforting environment for not only her friend, but also everyone else.
“There’s also many arts and crafts near where they get chemo, and while they’re getting treated they can paint, color, listen to soothing music, and much more.”
The feelings of loneliness and pain are emotions that everyone experiences at some point in their life, whether it be having cancer or mending a broken heart. But when going through a hard season of life, in order to learn and grow from that experience, you need to focus on yourself. Armstrong believes that the sense and form drive, in order to act harmoniously, need to be balanced out. But when focusing on yourself, this means having more of the sense drive in that moment, focusing on immediate gratification, needing contact and possession. You need to analyze how you feel and how you are going to better yourself, for your life. Armstrong himself states,“If we want to understand beauty, we can’t just talk about the things we find beautiful. We have to talk about our lives” (2). Talking about our lives includes how we are feeling at that moment in time. And if it is that single song or single painting that you use to cope, then it’s important to focus on that until you are experiencing a happiness that is genuine.
Using art to recognize beauty helps us to appreciate the little things in life that we enjoy. The things we adore or find the most joy in, we find beautiful because we have a personal connection with them. Living near the mountains and on the water have created several opportunities for me to get outside and interact with the nature that is all around me. For example, I love to see the sunset because it reminds me of how happy and joyous life can be. Throughout the semesters of college, as life gets more and more busy, it is easy for me to get side-tracked on the assignments I have to do and the papers I have to write. But taking a break from life and walking down to the beach to see the sunset, reminds me to recognize all of the unnoticed beauty all around us.
While attending college, life can get hectic and simply driving to see the sunset is something that reminds me of the simplicities of life. That beyond all of the school related things consuming my life, there is nature all around me that is worth appreciating.
Additionally, Anthony Mueller has an appreciation for cathedrals. He states, “…it doesn’t really matter whether its in person, nor does it matter what picture you look at, the message the Catholic church originally intended still reaches us today; a message of strength and power.” From simply seeing cathedrals, he found something that brought him joy. Anthony felt a significant power bearing over him from this piece of art, creating a personal connection with this piece. To help us appreciate these personal connections we have with the things we enjoy, we need to utilize the sense and the form drives. Schiller describes it as, “…true beauty is whatever speaks powerfully to both sides of our nature at the same time. This is not a quality in the object, but a longing in ourselves” (3). Using both of these drives creates a balance between becoming superficial and becoming dry. Whether it’s a man-made cathedral or the vibrant colors of the sunset, if we continue to use art to highlight what’s worth appreciating, it will help us to recognize the true beauty that surrounds us.
“Used by the Catholic Church to invoke a feeling of power, these churches still can strike emotion today into the hearts of people.”
From the sunny, summer days in June to famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, beauty can be perceived in many different ways. But, are the things we don’t find beautiful, in a way, ugly? What defines something as ugly? Or is everything beautiful? Social media puts additional pressure on what is and what is not beautiful. But in order to truly experience the beauty of something, the form and sense drives need to be used. If we continue to use art to experience this beauty, we will go down the right path of genuinely identifying and appreciating beauty.
Armstrong, John. “La Bella Vita.” True Beauty Pleases the Eye and the Mind-but Can It Help Us to Become Better People?, Aeon Media Group, 14 Feb. 2014 https://aeon.co/essays/can-beauty-help-us-to-become-better-people.
The Book of Life. What Is Art For? The School of Life, http://www.thebookoflife.org/what-is-art-for/. 23 April 2018.
Mueller, Anthony. “Let’s Talk About Art.” UNE EPortfolio. WordPress. http://amueller1.uneportfolio.org/eng-110/title/. 23 April 2018.
Gagne, Liv. “My Personal Experience with Art.” UNE Portfolio. WordPress. http://ogagne.uneportfolio.org/my-personal experience-with-art/. 23 April 2018.