“What a strange illusion to suppose that beauty is goodness.” – L. Tolstoy
I like ugly. I appreciate imperfection. So what?
With ugly, you can be honest/truthful. It’s real. With ugly, you can be irreverent. With ugly, you can be compassionate. With ugly, you get closer to reality. With ugly, you are at home. With ugly, you can scratch where it itches.
There is a universal fascination with ugly: Jesus’ passion and Woody Allen flailing. Collapsing, old, abandoned barns.
Too much of what is presented to us as beauty is really only hygiene, youth, or orderliness. It’s non-threatening, serene, decorative and non-challenging. And art shows and galleries in touristy areas are full of this kind of false beauty, an illusion that is the negation of the reality that envelops us.
When we ignore or subtract the discomfortingly real, we are consoled and lulled into feeling that it is OK when it isn’t. If we are lulled by false beauty, we negate our inclement reality.
But ugliness is much more honest and in a deep sense, satisfying. Ugliness ranges from the merely unfashionable to the discomfortingly all too familiar, to the life-threatening and the incomprehensible. Never is ugliness unreal.
Certain things like senescent and soon to decay fall leaves have beautiful characteristics like color. Is it something beyond and unrelated to the ugly? Something that appears because of the ugly? Or are some ugly things beautiful because they are true?
Real life never grows on gold.
It never develops on diamonds.
Life thrives on decaying organic matter.
Shit, carcasses and rot - the ugly basis of all life.
Life is tastes, textures and smells
that the market never sells.
Messy life transforms itself, impregnating other life.
While inert objects persist immaculate, unchanging
Life is Love and fluids and stink of the rut
Wisdom is blood and bile.
Legacy is sweat.
Rubies and silver have no taste, smell or soul.
Inert, they persist, never grow.
Diamond is an unchanging noun.
Shit-plant-flower-bee-rot-plant-flower-humus is a verb.
Detritus, what a lovely word.
Idealized forms are not beautiful in any meaningful sense. Variability is beautiful truth. Idealization separates us from living and breathing reality that is inevitably individual, damaged, surprisingly or delightfully unexpected. Janis Joplin was beautiful.
Dissonant, eclectic beauty that is full of vitality and playfulness, ambiguity and constructive irony responds to many needs, tastes and moods. It speaks in many accents.
Honesty: Lucien Freud’s and Jenny Saville’s works impact. We respond positively to these presentations even though the models were ugly by most any conventional aestheticsometer; but they are us, they resonate with us because they are mundanely ordinary and, well, totally biological with no idealization.
“Let us leave the beautiful women to men with no imagination.” - Marcel Proust, 1925
In my sculptures I celebrate and even add blemishes and imperfections. I rebel against the perfected, objectified nude.
We were not designed; we evolved. Nature has no concept of perfection. We are not made in the image of some faultless god. Evolution by selection has jury-rigged all life forms using whatever raw material was available. Physical beings are contraptions that work pretty damn well. I want to celebrate that pragmatic, something-out-of-nothing imperfection.
Ideals and heroic proportions, while attractive to us, are of no biological importance. In fact, some ideals would be biologically undesirable, and some very adaptable variants will be considered ugly. Sorry, aesthetics. So, if an artist wants to celebrate something about our species that is of real bioevolutionary importance, ugliness is a good choice.
Starting from an evolutionary biology point of view, I conclude that a realistic figurative piece of an imperfect person is more pertinent than an undoubtedly beautiful Brancusi sculpture is.
V Nijinsky wrote in his diary:“… regular features are not god. God is not regular features. God is feeling in a face. A hunchback is God. I like hunchbacks. I like ugly people. I am an ugly man with feeling. I dance hunchbacks and straight backs. … Thinking people write nonsense about beauty. Beauty cannot be discussed…