Recently, an on-line friend, Billy Renkl (Professor of Art at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN) and I began a discussion about beauty and its presence in art in 2020. I find Renkl’s work beautiful. One of his pieces hangs by my side of the bed. This collage of a paper cardinal sitting in a tree greets me each morning. A glance at the piece makes me happy, it makes me smile. My side of our discussion began with the point that much of my education in photography has centered on having something to say, not on creating a beautiful photograph. During this pandemic, I am finding it almost impossible to create something beautiful just for the sake of beauty. I have begun to try harder but I can not say that I have been successful, yet.
Since I began thinking about collage in late May, my work is centering around the 2020 election, children being held in cages at the Texas border, the Coronavirus, loneliness, and isolation. Billy inspires me into questioning, “What is it that I find beautiful and how might I create something beautiful through collage?”
To this question, Billy sent two articles by Peter Schjeldahl; Notes on Beauty (1998) and Beauty (1999). Peter Schjeldahl is an art critic, writer for The New York Times and former Harvard professor who was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. His and other writings are making me slow down and think about these objects I am creating to help me deal with the feelings of being isolated in rural East Texas and the fear of becoming infected with the COVID virus.
In 1975, I took an Aesthetics course with Philosophy Professor, Dr. James Treanor. I never thought I’d be reflecting forty-five years later about what Plato had to say about the subject, or Kant or Hume. But here I am reading about art and beauty and thinking about how my work fits into the age old discussion