Art is: Beauty can manifest in many ways

Published 9:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2019

Art is by Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, where the All School Art Show continues through April 27.

What is beauty?

I can think of a million things that are beautiful. Well, about a million, starting with the excited smiles on the faces of my great-grandchildren following their performances in ice hockey or figure skating or square dancing.

Or, how about the beauty of the orchids growing in my living room from a plant that looks far too gone to be blooming. Or, the shiny, sparkling, frost-covered branches of a birch tree on a Minnesota January morning.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Maybe you see beauty in a red rose or a golden sunrise or autumn leaves or the design of an historic building or even the unusual shape of a fishing lure. Do you see what I mean about almost a million things?

According to my tiny Webster’s dictionary, beauty is “pleasing, excellence, good looks,” and the synonyms in Roget’s thumb-ease thesaurus include “grace, exquisiteness, embellishment, radiance, picturesqueness, adornment, attractiveness, bloom and comeliness.”

Many years ago, the Sunday magazine in the Albert Lea Tribune featured an article with pictures of 50 different women. The reader was asked to select the most beautiful. Each of the women were attractive in a different way. Of course, my husband and I selected entirely different people.

What is beauty? Where does it come from? Who is right? Is anyone right? Do we each have our own idea of what beauty is?

On April 7, I had the opportunity to observe students of all ages showing off their art work to parents and grandparents, other relatives and friends. The annual All School Art Show is currently on display at the Albert Lea Art Center, and on opening day people came by the hundreds to see the creativity of the students. Their joy and enthusiasm and pride was beautiful to watch.

I found beauty in their art, wonderful creativity, funny and serious work, and imagination without bounds. There were serious portraits, zentangle fish, friendly lions, colorful baskets and even the biggest Coke bottle I had ever seen. Both the students and their teachers must have felt the excitement of creativity, the joy of art and the satisfaction and peace of accomplishment.

In the book “Thoreau and the Art of Life: Precepts and Principle”s with watercolors and thoughtful comments by Roderick MacIver, I found the beautiful quote, “How significant that the rich, black mud of our dead stream produces the water-lily — out of that fertile slime springs this spotless purity. It is remarkable that those flowers, which are most emblematic of purity, should grow in the mud.” Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, 1853.

In the last couple of years, water lilies have begun growing in Bancroft Bay. Not only are the blossoms a lovely addition to these peaceful waters, the round, floating leaves provide shade and protection for the fish and a comfortable resting spot for dragonflies. The water lily, whose long stem rises from mud, becomes a thing of beauty when it reaches the sunlight.

Beauty is found where we choose to find it: in a small child’s smile, a brilliant sunset, the creativity of a ninth grader, even a water lily rising from the dirty muck in a shallow bay.