okeedokee... i get to put my art degree to some use in an attempt to answer this age old question. woo-hoo!
of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and yet most of us can agree that the Grand Canyon at sunset is a beautiful thing. nature, in all its
majesty and subtlety would have been our first 'teacher' in what constitutes beauty, and our first attempts at art where often an attempt to capture
i would also put the 'mystical' experiences into this category of First Beauties... be it some sort of ecstatic experience, love, grief, awe, birth,
deep wonder, etc. once again, our first arts attempted to capture these 'mystical' experiences.
so this is the overt answer as to what constitutes beauty: nature and the deeper human conditions trigger our sensibilities and aesthetic
it gets more complex when exploring human constructs, however. and yet, even most human constructs (it can be argued) have some design element that
relates back to nature and mysticism.
music, for example... in some regards it is a human construct. however, the harmonic (and therefore "pleasing") tones in music are simple mathematical
ratios. 3:2 is the perfect 5th. 4:3 is the perfect 4th, etc.
it is as though these "beautiful" harmonic relationships existed in the eternal realm of physics, and it was up to we humans to discover them, and
then compose them to further express our plights.
even our architecture - when the proportions and the ratios carry a certain "flow" that invokes the harmonic ratios, we, almost on an instinctual
level, recognize the inherent beauty present.
these "pleasing" ratios also exist not just in the realm of abstract physics, but in the realm of living nature, as i am sure many of us are aware of
the Golden Ratio.
these are all tangible qualities of beauty.
yet, what is the Intangible quality of beauty?
i suppose this is where i will get in trouble by some of the more concrete science minded folk, as it is something that cannot be proved, yet i
believe can certainly be 'sensed'
i believe another primary factor in contributing to the beauty of a human construct (in addition to the aformentioned tangible qualities of balance,
proportion, etc.) is the "intent" of the maker.
the "intent" is our emotional signature we imprint into our works of art. it is, if you will, the animating force of the art. the soul within the
construct. and i believe this intent can be perceived, on some level. "artists" and certainly others have developed this sense, but it is something
that is available to all. ("trust your feelings, Luke")
this is why the McMansion (despite it's architectural soundness) reeks... whereas the simple Native hogan is a work of deep beauty. the intent when
constructing the McMansion is profit based. the workers where not deeply emotionally invested in the creation of this house, and therefore the house
was not imbued with that extra something. whereas the hogan was constructed with care and respect and whatever other pure emotional bond the crafter
poured into their home.
it is the same reason why Grandma's cooking tastes so much better than most restaurants. it's the extra ingredient... the intent of the maker. (in
gramma's case, it's the love)
once again, i believe we as humans have the ability to perceive such intent - we have a "6th sense" (or maybe it's our 7th or 8th sense) that can
detect emotional resonance, and that is what attracts us (or repels us) from a work just as much as the purely aesthetic tangible representation of
and that's that. despite the kneejerk reaction to anything remotely hippy or new age, it's the vibes, man. all about the vibes.
anyhow... thanks for the question. the muses of my mind enjoyed the exploration.
edit on 2-9-2011 by mythos because: removed a botched link