So, I enrolled in a Philosophy class. With a taunting title like “Beastly Beauty: The Value That Astounds, Confounds, Perplexes and Vexes Us” how could I not? It’s basically an Aesthetics course taught by a scary smart über-organized professor. (Uh Oh…she means it and students must too.) And a lyrical comedienne. (Whew, we can relax and be real.)
It’s an interesting hybrid of lecture, Q&A, readings, pop-quizzes, exams and all that old-school jazz meshed with an online portal where the whole affair flies paperless and textbook-free. It’s additionally livelied-up with group writing prompts, required responses to the postings of other students, and even a few virtual discussions – called “Philosophy in the Real World in Real Time” – instead of sitting in class that day. Whoa Nellie! Bring it.
I’ll know more in a month or so. In the meantime I gotta go read Plato, who is sounding more and more like Jim Bob Duggar to me, in that lovable fundamental purist kind of way.
So, on to our first online Discussion topic: “What makes something beautiful to you?”
I figured I would start with what I know. Ceramics. I was tempted to use one of my own pieces, but instead preferred the safer psychic distance that a piece by someone else affords. I wrote about the sweet Kathryn McBride cup given to me out of the blue that I have mentioned here before:
This porcelain teabowl is beautiful to me in three ways.
- As a classic Japanese-style chawan, it is generously proportioned yet subtly shaped. The glowing aquamarine celadon glaze augments the exterior textures and pools pleasingly in the fingerprints inside. As a work of visual art it feels resolved and autonomous, creating a presence unto itself.
- In use it functions beautifully. It sits level and provides a reliable surface to grasp. Neither too chunky nor too thin, it feels balanced to hold. It delivers liquid cleanly to the lips, a crucial but often overlooked intimacy of the drinking vessel.
- It is personally beautiful to me because it evokes the lovely sensibilities of its maker, my longtime ceramic mentor who died in 2012.
I was happy to find in the process of writing this response that beauty, for me, not only comes from appearance, but also from motion, perception and association. I did not know that so clearly before.
I am still waiting for a few more of the 28 or so other students to post their thoughts so I have a wider choice of whose posts I write my two required responses to. This is a great way to take a class. Not everyone wants to ask questions, express opinions or discuss slippery concepts out loud on the fly. And writing papers for only the instructor’s eyes has other unrealistic limits.
Let’s get this Pretty Ugly Art Party started. Bring on the Beautiful Beasts and let the wild rumpus begin!
–Liz Crain, who never really knows what to say right away. Unless she’s mad.