I believe that “looks” do matter, but probably not in the way that you are thinking. Strip malls, drop ceilings, harsh fluorescent lighting, faux wood paneling and sweatpants with words written across the butt…these are things that I find objectionable…and these are things that can be easily eliminated! A great part of our physical environment is made up of objects created by humans. Someone has designed the can that you throw your trash in, the alarm clock that you wake up to each and every morning, the car that you drive, your toothbrush, dog bowl, chair and television. These things are functional whether they are beautiful or not, but remember- it can be truly pleasant to have some well-designed stuff in your life.
At this time, the economy is bad, people are losing their jobs, and the future looks bleak….one might wonder how art, design or fashion could be of any concern at this time. I think that the opposite is true. It is during times like this that we really need some positivity, in whatever form it takes. My grandfather had a beauty shop that was very successful during World War II, even though the country was in rationing mode. Why? A woman may have been too poor to buy a new dress, but she managed to afford a trip to the beauty parlor now and again, to continue to feel good about herself. Right now, whether you change the color of a door, or place branches over the fireplace – these are things that are done easily with little cost. These are things that can make life better in a small way, right now…and most importantly, these are things that we can control.
I am an art teacher at a public high school in a rural area. Often, I find that my students have not given much thought to their physical environment, for whatever reason. By pointing out the subtlety of color, or working with the beauty of a line, students slowly come to realize that there are dimensions to daily life that were unknown to them before. I was raised by an architect father and an aesthetically inclined mother. Color, design and style were important to my parents, as was music, culture, museums and the like. There was much happiness to be had in picking wildflowers and setting them in a vase, drawing large pictures on architectural print paper, or in my mom’s case, sewing new slipcovers to change the look of something old.
I sometimes feel that people want to dismiss the arts, as we focus on more intellectual or spiritual goals….or politics or sports. But think about all of the non-essential essentials that are part of daily life. We humans create many simple things, just to make life more beautiful: flower gardens, paint in every conceivable shade, gift wrap, table cloths, marble rye, hairstyles, ribbon, cookie cutters, and wallpaper to name a few. When you think about your workplace, your style, your nest…looks can matter…do they matter to you?
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