There’s a sense of beauty we humans carry with us. I find this sense to be something most people either idolize or fear—similar to sexuality. In the last several years, I’ve worked and grown to genuinely appreciate it. With this painting, I aim to celebrate the sensibility of beauty.
First off, I’m very aware that my painting and this reflection initially point most to outward human physicality. So, on that note, I present the following as the undertone to my message.
I recall that time of life when my eyes naturally awakened to female form. What wonder rushed into my world. Simultaneously rushing in, to “rescue” me, were well-intended messages of instruction from traditional culture and the Christian subculture surrounding me. I vividly recall hearing family members, pastors and christian school leaders encouraging me to “guard my heart.”
“Boys,” they said, “if she isn’t dressed modestly, look away. Guard your heart. Keep your mind pure. DON’T LUST!” Amid hearing this constant message, I also began discovering a God-given ability to draw representations of what I could see. Playing it safe with what I drew, I kept my artistic subject matter to animal wildlife and my favorite NBA basketball players—no harm in that.
Fast-forward with me through my years of formal art education — undergraduate during my late teens/early twenties and graduate school amid my mid-thirties. Throughout those early adult years, my eye developed to seeing, processing, and expressing more beauty—all the while, subscribing to the well-rehearsed practice of “looking away” from female form.
Sparing you any further details, I’ll simply admit, it was utter torment. All I can say is that attractive women abound in this world. Deeply repressive and confusing was the system which conditioned me to believe the mere noticing of female form to be an automatic slippery-slope toward lust.
In fact, ironically, the very vice the well-intended messages of “looking away” and “guarding your heart” aim to avoid, actually occurs within this way of operation — it’s objectification of another human being. Deliberately lusting or intentionally looking away from another person are both dehumanizing acts of behavior.
What I celebrate today in this and in all my artwork is the healthy attraction to beauty for what it is — an invitation to wonder, know further, and relate with another human being. In knowing another, in their appropriate context, I also have the opportunity to know a little more about who and what God is like. Within and beyond the outer appearances of women and men are so many qualities to enjoy and appreciate. Choosing what to do with another person’s beauty (personal responsibility and heart motive) is where it remains whole or goes terribly wrong. This painting illustrates what is and what could be. Sensing beauty is a human quality worthy of enjoyment.
A note on the location of this plein air painting. Richter Bakhaus is a quaint bakery/coffeeshop within my beloved hometown. I had the opportunity to serve latte art there for a couple of years, and I still enjoy visiting the people who work and frequent this special place. If you’re interested, I do have some postcards featuring Sensing Beauty. Reach out and let me know if you’d like to purchase any.
If you appreciate my work and would like another way to support me, please share this post, leave a comment or insight you’ve discovered. Thank you for coming along and spending time with me on my artistic journey.