Underlying Beauty

Underlying Beauty

People perceive beauty differently from others depending on their standards of what they find attractive. While some people find beauty in certain places, objects, or people, others may not. Artists, in the same way, find inspiration to create new masterpieces depending on their standards of beauty. Inspiration to artists can come from what people normally see as beautiful, like a breathtaking landscape to what people find disgusting like a deceased animal. Artists like John Cage, Alexander McQueen, and Diane Arbus found beauty in what people would not normally find beautiful or acceptable.

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Cage, a composer and writer, always transformed what people might call noise to music in his mind. Every sound to him was pleasing and he treated it like it was a medium to create a work of art. Similarly, Alexander McQueen, a fashion designer, turned disturbing objects like animal flesh into beautiful clothes that the whole fashion world praised. Also, Diane Arbus, a photographer captured images of the misfits of society, showing her viewers that beauty had to be searched for in even the strangest places.

Unlike others, these artists taught their audience to look beyond their standard of beauty and to open their minds to find beauty in anything and everywhere. Everyday, people listen to sounds around them and find them either pleasing or intrusive to the ears. John Cage, however, finds beauty in every sound. What some people might call noise, he calls it music. In Searching For Silence, the author, Alex Ross, talks about Cage’s conceptual work, “4’33″” and how it is suppose to “open the mind to the fact that all sounds are music” (Ross 1).

Cage created it on his belief that “there is no such thing as silence”, and made people sit in a concert hall to hear beyond the “silence”. Cage’s “4’33″” really got people to truly listen to what was around them and understand that there will always be some sort of sound that they hear even in “silence”. Cage, through his works, tried to open peoples’ minds at all times, teaching them not to be judgmental with what they see or hear because at the end they will be missing out on what could potentially inspire them.

He teaches his audience to see the beauty of everything first to experience completely what is out there in the world. In his essay, The Future of Music: Credo, Cage informs his readers to “capture and control these [noises] to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments” (Cage 1). He wants his audience to treat sound like it is a medium to create a work of art and to experiment with these sounds in our minds to ultimately understand the beauty of each sound.

By recognizing that all sounds are music, Cage’s audience will be able to pass their ideals of beautiful sounds and be open to a world full of them. In fashion, people are normally used to seeing models wearing tulle, organza, silk, and leather walking down the runways. When fashion designers usually found inspiration from women in the seventies or woman of royalty, McQueen “felt an even deeper sense of identity with the broken and martyred women who stirred his fantasies, and whom he transfigured” (Thurman 3).

McQueen found beauty where people normally would not and proved to be one of the greatest designers of the century. He “caged [his models] in glass boxes or padded cells; half smothered; masked; tethered; tightly laced; straitjacketed; and forced [them] to walk in perilous “armadillo” booties, with ten inch heels” (3). He showed the world that beauty could exist in any form or shape, whether it was a model covered in pink tulle or one wearing the skins of a mutant species.

McQueen mentioned that he could find beauty in “even the most disgusting of places” (Thurman 2), shown clearly through his designs. He showed the fashion world that even the most disturbing subject could be transformed into a beautiful one. With his collections, McQueen provoked emotional reactions from his audience, proving that beauty can exist in everything. His clothes allowed people to enter the twisted realm of his mind and showed them that they have to look for beauty even if they think it is not there–because it is always there.

Photographers capture images of subjects that they think are visually interesting. Diane Arbus, however, took a different approach and captured the people who stood out in the crowd. To Arbus, the people who captured her eye were the ones who society titled as “freaks”–the misfits. Her subjects were people who were “different” and physically malformed like dwarves, transvestites, twins, and the mentally challenged. Arbus concentrated on subjects that were not inherently beautiful and understood that beauty had to be searched for.

When looking at her photographs, the viewer feels uncomfortable and her subjects seem grotesque and freakish. However, Arbus wants her audience to look beneath the surface of her photographs and recognize the underlying beauty of these “freaks”. Arbus did not take photographs of her subjects to ridicule them but to show the stories of people who wanted to connect with the world but did not know how to. Her photographs informed people to break down their standards of beauty and to open their eyes to examine and see everything and everyone in the world more deeply than just their first impressions.

In one of Arbus’s photographs, Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents, she teaches her audience that they cannot judge a person’s appearance by just looking at him/her but they have to see the story behind his/her deformities and flaws–the trouble and pain a person endured all his/her life. Arbus ultimately wants her viewers to recognize that beauty comes in all different sizes and shapes and that beauty survives in everything. Cage, McQueen, and Arbus did not create works of art to please their audience but to teach them that beauty exists in places where they would not normally expect it to be.

These artists wanted their viewers to search for beauty in places that were not inherently beautiful to ultimately broaden their minds, imagination, and sources of inspiration. With their art, they make their viewers look beyond their standards of beauty to see more, hear more, and feel more. Cage, McQueen, and Arbus knew that once people opened their hearts and minds past their comfort zones, they would appreciate everyone and everything in the world better and understand that beauty has no limits.


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