Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thinking About Beauty

Summer solstice was a warm, sunny day. A small group gathered here for a fire to 
celebrate the longest day and witness it fade into night. The frogs and bird songs 
were particularly beautiful, seeming always to punctuate moments when deep truths  
were spoken and prayers given to the fire with handfuls of fragrant herbs. I thought 
about having my camera with me, but being present in the moment always takes 
precedence over recording our ritual. The following day brought back the heavy
rains, feeling more like autumn than summer. My sister and niece came for an 
overnight and we tucked into the house for cozy reading and tea. We did have one 
outside adventure to the gorge - a very wet walk along the cliffs. An unsteady 
moment while taking the photo above captures the day much better than any 
of the others I think!

I felt the power of the rushing, swollen r
iver as it poured through the narrow passage and the air smelled fresh and alive with the movement. A run of many days of rain, then a few of sunshine has taken hold, keeping the gardens well watered and not yet drowning. Amidst the mists and dripping sounds, the mountain laurel has burst into bloom throughout the forest. 
A surprise to find a turned leaf already. The color captivated me 
and the little eye near the top got me wondering....

Being quite sensitive to the mold spores that have blossomed in this wet, 
I had a slow day of rest and listening and found myself thinking a lot about 
beauty. I'm often shocked when a colleague at the university makes a statement 
about a piece of student work " It lacks depth - its just too pretty". I understand 
what is meant, but what shocks me is that often this criticism is given to work 
that is intuitive and mysterious and to my eyes, beautiful. It seems that in 
the university, beauty is not okay anymore, and hasn't been for a long time. 
I find myself out on a limb, fighting for the work of a student who has delved into 
an authentic dance with beauty, and it seems only a few others recognize the 

I think being an artist is about pollinating the world with beauty, 
and what comes of walking in the world with the senses wide open is 


Nancy said...

I love these photos of your world! And when you say, "pollinating the world "...oh what an image those words paint! I too just make a comment on being an artist by posting a beautiful video (not mine) on my blog. This is something that gets considered, discussed and often shifts over time. Love the expression on your kitty's face (5th photo from the bottom) - so cute!

Tammie Lee said...

so lovely to see your days and life in photos. sounds like you have had some deep and beautiful times shared with others.

I enjoyed your thoughts on beauty and critiques. I feel that when a teacher can find a students direction or gift and help them to find their next step that this is very helpful, criticism on the other hand... well for someone like me it is not very helpful.

Dreaming Woods said...

is that river close by to you Valerianna? It looks absolutely beautiful place to be and wander. I have to admit that i almost forgot the actual midsummer day, in Finland people celebrated the midsummer on friday and saturday. and i mixed up the dates... i have been too busy with everything else, that i have not even remembered this special day.

steven said...

valerianna - astonishment ... that's it in a word! steven

Barry said...

V-love the moving image at the start of tyhe post and the leaf with eye. Good to share the daily walks and journeys of fellow artists. Thanks. B

Penny Berens said...

The longest day......and still summer has not arrived up here. So nice to spend the evening with your sister and niece. I'm loving how you "pollinate the world with beauty"!

Lynn said...

"Beauty" and "astonishment". Yes!!

ramona said...

I love your beautiful little reading space in the woods. A place for quietude and reflection.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

I guess beauty is not only subjective but falls in and out of fashion. I don't think anyone however could argue that your cat and your woods have a very large parcel of it.

A mermaid in the attic said...

I come up against that too, not so much from other people but from myself...I look at something I've created and wonder 'is it meaningful, or am I just making pretty things to hang on someone's wall?' On good days I know I'm making something worthwhile, that striving for beauty is worthwhile, and on bad days I struggle with doubt.

Unknown said...

I remember critique sessions at university very much the same - beauty not ok - and that was some many years ago now. But the more years i am graced with, the more i revel in being astonished by Beauty all around - and want my art to celebrate that. Thanks for your thoughts, V, which are always stimulating to mine. (lovey pix of Pasha - WW is off on safari and hasn't been seen for over a week). xxx, sus

Acornmoon said...

Beauty will never go out of fashion and you are helping to keep it alive in your work and woodland explorations.

yew tree nights said...

Oh, things like that convinced me that art school was not for me. I was afraid of an emphasis on "learning creativity" and not technique as well. Who knows what it would really have been like though. I'm glad you're there to balance out those sort of ideas... perhaps that balance is really the key to good art education?

I was so looking forward to the solstice, since it never really gets completely dark at this time of year in northern Scotland... and the sun rises at 4am. I was thinking we'd have a great old time out in the woods... but it just poured rain all day, and in fact never really got completely light out either, despite everything. Ah well... at least someone had good weather!

Karen said...

If more people pollinated the world with beauty what a better place it would be. I wish that someone would scatter it all across the TV news headlines so that it could take seed and outgrow the bad news that always seems to take priority.

mirsini's creations said...

What a wonderful place!! It must be so calm to live there and smell the fresh air!! The river is powerful!! Full of energy all around you and your cat is soooo beautiful!!!
Lovely pictures of him!!! The Flowers are bloomed and so beautiful!!!
Thank you for another amazing trip in the woods (and sorry about my english :op)
Kisses! :o)

Rowan said...

I can't believe the amount of rain the US is getting this summer, in the UK it's been an exceptionally dry Spring and all the rivers are low. Happily we've had enough rain recently to keep things nice and green though.
Art - I'm afraid that most of what the 'experts' call art these days I regard as absolute rubbish. I absolutely agree that art should bring beauty to the world. Yours certainly does and it's good that you are encouraging others to do the same.
Lovely photos of your feline friend - is that catnip that he's looking so ecstatic about?:)

trish said...

That was lovely.
I really like your view of beauty. That is very special.
Much love.

rivergardenstudio said...

I love reading all of this, your solstice with friends, your garden and forest rain, your thoughts on beauty, and especially that you have made me think about listening. Really listening. Right now i am hearing the wind through the pines on the mountain, and the softer wind through the aspen and birch here at home. This is beautiful! roxanne

barbara said...

Some of the beauty you show here, I can only dream about ... but some I can hold in my arms threefold :)))

Nikiah said...

I am always inspired by the simple stunning beauty of where you live!
Today reading your blog you said something that filled up my heart though....
"I think being an artist is about pollinating the world with beauty."
I wildly agree! Thank you for being you!!
Many Blessings

Heather said...

I went to art school in the late '80's, when smart, cynical irony was the fashion. It has taken me years to shake that loose. Ultimately, beauty can be more compelling.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

"Pollinating the world with beauty".
I love that. And I agree.

Velma Bolyard said...

o, i like hte idea of astonishment!

ArtPropelled said...

"I think being an artist is about pollinating the world with beauty,
and what comes of walking in the world with the senses wide open is
astonishment." A beautiful quotation for my quote book!

Valerianna said...

Hi everyone... goodness, very late in responding to comments!

Nancy- thanks - and that was a great video!

Tammie - I think a great teacher is someone who can give really tough
criticism and present it as if its an invitation.

Delila - Yes, that river is just a short drive from RavenWood. The river actually runs quite close by, but to get to the gorge, one must drive a little.

Steven - yes, it sure is, isn't it?

Barry - Somehow that photo strikes me as having a Japanese feeling to it... I think its the umbrellas.

Penny - since it took me sooo long to respond to comments, I see from your blog posts that summer does seem to have finally arrived for you!

Lynn - glad you agree!

Ramona - as long as the mosquitos are off somewhere else!

Julie - thanks!

Mermaid - yup, that seems to be the artist's path...!

Susan - Yes, me too... absolutely.

acornmoon - thank you!

Jodi - I didn't experience this so much in art school, but do in a liberal arts university. It may be just where I'm at, but I think the academic nature of the school gets in the way sometimes. Art school was much more all inclusive.

Karen - I do so wonder who decided that the only news that's important is bad news?

mirsini's creations - yes, it is lovely living here, and I think you live in Crete, and I know it is quite amazing there, too!

Rowan - finally we seem to have a balance of wet and dry, thank goodness, I was starting to worry. And, yes, that is catmint Pasha is nibbling on!

Trish - thanks!

rivergardenstudio - Listening is really a practice. I think we distract ourselves so much with all the other sounds. Sometimes I really do just sit, look and listen for a long time. Its a profound practice.

Stille Linde - That sounds very furry!

Nikiah - thanks, and honored to fill up your heart!

Heather - Yes, definitely. Luckily the art school I went to had a healthy balance of both. Neither seemed to outdo the other, at least in the painting/printmaking department. I am grateful for that.

Pamela - glad you do, cause you do!

Velma - I bet you do!

ArtPropelled - honored!