Let's Talk About Beauty
Do you have a Summer reading list? I have (finally!) gotten to dive into mine this month, including a gorgeous book by John O'Donohue called Beauty. It is delivering so many nuggets of wisdom and making me think a lot about how we value beauty in our current culture. One of the most resonant passages for me was this one about our built environments:
Beauty is mostly forgotten and made to seem naive and romantic. The blindness of property development creates rooms, buildings, and suburbs which lack grace and mystery. Socially, this influences the atmosphere in the workplace, the school room, the board room, and the community. It also results in such degradation of the environment that we are turning more and more of our beautiful earth into a wasteland. Much of the stress and emptiness that haunts us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty. Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by thoughts and images which hold the radiance of beauty.
So much is said and written about poverty in terms of economy, class, culture—what about a poverty of beauty?
Within the built environment, where we spend so much of our time, that poverty is striking. In recent history, there has been abundance of uninspired color palettes, a default toward vertical and horizontal lines, and a preference for cheap and perfunctory building materials. Beauty was dismissed as a luxury, or something trivial that could be sacrificed for function or the bottom line.
Now, I see the tides beginning to turn. I see architects, designers, and builders waking up to the importance of beauty in the built environment for the health, happiness, and engagement of those who inhabit their spaces. They honor this essential truth: beauty reminds us what it is to be human. It is not just something that exists on the surface—it is a gateway that invites us into a deeper experience of ourselves, our world, and all the ways in which we're connected. As O'Donohue continues in Beauty:
The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere—in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. No-one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are of beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul.
Where do you feel the presence of beauty? Where does your soul feel a homecoming?
Our environments are as much a part of our lives as the music we listen to, the books we read, the people we connect with. And this relationship, between our mind-body-spirits and the physical spaces we inhabit, has the potential for wonder, healing, and transformation. So let's activate it!
If you are working with a space and have an idea—or just a desire—to make it more beautiful, let me know. I am taking on some new commissions this year, for murals as well as other elements within the built environment: sculpture, lighting, textiles. If there is a space that's calling out to be transformed by color and pattern, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's dream it together.
Cheers to finding beauty around every corner,
P.S. Next week, I will be going to a couple of the places that make my soul feel at home—Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina and Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina—for Summer vacation! If you send me an email, I will respond when I get back to the studio on Monday, August 5th. You can also keep up with my travels on Instagram.