Yesterday, I went to an exhibit in San Francisco called The Cult of Beauty, showcasing the Victorian Aesthetic movement in the arts, interior design, and fashion. In a rebellion against all convention, the Aesthetes celebrated art for its own sake, incorporated both Greco-Roman and Japanese culture, and the beauty of the natural female form*.
As I wandered through the exhibition, I was genuinely overwhelmed at times. There was so much beauty in that space that I felt like I would have a seizure and collapse, foaming at the mouth. (Upon telling my mom this, she said "I hope that doesn't happen. You'd hit your head.")
It's something of a personal failing of mine that I don't always stop to appreciate the beautiful. In going through the exhibit, I would sometimes make myself stop and appreciate all the details of the piece, because otherwise I would just breeze through everything to spare my senses. It's easier on one's brain to not take in the detailing of a painting made with so much skill that it looks like a photograph, the elegant curves in a wardrobe, the vibrant colors and elaborate molding of rooms designed by artists. But I feel like I had a better experience because I forced myself to take in all of that beauty. I couldn't avoid it to make my brain less spinny.
I'm not a visual arts student. I can't critically analyze a painting very well. But I can look at a beautiful painting and value it for the time and love the artist put into it. Sometimes it boggles my brain and I feel like I should be collapsing. Sometimes I get troubled by the way artists put women on pedestals. But when presented with amazing work like what I saw at The Cult of Beauty, I know it's going to be okay. Because we have beauty in this world, something to keep us smiling even when times are hard.
*Aesthetic fashion rejected the corset and other figure-modifying undergarments.