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Truth vs. Beauty: The Cage Fight In My Head

I was tagged by Cherish Bryck last week in a bloggie interview game, and I had every intention of playing along.  But, as tends to happen lately, life got filled up with a whole lot of other work/art/out-of-town guests/distraction and that intention got away from me.

She did ask a question that has been rattling around in the back of my brain since then, even in the midst of all the mayhem: If you had to pick, would you rather photograph truth or beauty?

And here I am, with Spring popping all around me, back in my annual internal battle about whether taking pictures of flowers is worth anything at all.  I set these tulips in a puddle of window light yesterday afternoon.  The dialogue between me and my camera went something like:


Yeah, so what?


Oooooh, pretty.


Right, but what does it do?

I am a storyteller at heart.  I value beauty (I bought the tulips after all), but I find myself wondering if it has meaning.  At no time of year is this a more challenging conundrum to me than Spring.  I hear Keats and wonder if he was right:

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

It has a certain roundness that I like, these two ideals containing each other.  And, it could be argued in my tortured head, that it gives me permission to shoot the damn tulips already.  But the cynic in me thinks Keats was an overly-romantic 24-year-old and I was 24 once and, well, I didn't know much of anything then.  Though I was ardent.

So I poked around to see what other people made of this dilemma and, naturally, Gandhi weighed in on it. 

I see and find Beauty in Truth or through Truth. All Truths, not merely true ideas, but truthful faces, truthful pictures or songs are highly beautiful. People generally fail to see Beauty in Truth, the ordinary man runs away from it and becomes blind to the beauty in it. Whenever men begin to see Beauty in Truth, then true Art will arise.

It seems that Gandhi puts truth at the birthplace of beauty and art, and I think I do too.  I'm not sure what this means for me and still-life, but since this is probably the most torturously self-conscious post in the history of this blog I will leave you with a pretty picture I made of some flowers and hope you feel less conflicted about that than me.

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Reader Comments (7)

Oh, the dreaded "what does it do?" question...If anyone can make beauty tell a story, it's you, my friend. xoxo

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan @ Life Refocused

Hmmmm...such enormous life ponderings and questions. Truth vs. beauty? I'd like to hope that somewhere within 'truth' there is always 'beauty'???

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcie

I always thought truth and beauty were the same. Where have I been? You do a fantastic job at representing both my friend. xo

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternell

Funny thing: the word I had to spell to be sure I was spamming you was "cultivate". Oh, all the little signs that come through me...

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternell

Now wait just a dang minute. It's firmly established that delighting oneself and others is without a doubt one of the many, true provinces of art. This beautiful portrait of these particular tulips basking in that singular pool of light captures a real moment in the life of a specific, beloved, child, godchild, artist, friend and inspiritor. Face it: it's art. xoxo, Jewel

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJewel

The truth is: this is beautiful. And I didn't have to ponder for a second :)

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

I feel like there's a longing in this photo.

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