A few days a week, I work at an upholstery fabric store. I recently helped a woman who wanted to buy 15 yards of fabric to recover a couch. When an order arrives, we roll out the fabric and go through it looking for flaws. When this particular fabric arrived, I was told to look very closely at the fabric because said customer is notoriously picky. So, I rolled it out and slowly assessed each yard. It was a sand colored linen that had earthy specks in it. Linen is known and loved because of its natural beauty. When the woman came in, we went through it together and she kept finding little 'flaws'. I had to explain to her that these were not flaws, but rather, irregular texture that exists in the natural linen texture. After a long conversation with her, I came to realize that this tension over the condition of linen, is much like how we view many other things in our lives.
Why is it that we are drawn to natural-looking things, but yet expect them to be flawless?
Why is it that people are drawn to the human figure, but culture places high standards of 'perfection'?
We are set up for failure.
I once saw 'before' and 'after' pictures of a woman who lost 100 pounds. Usually, when a transformation like this takes place, the pictures are portrayed as before (sad, lonely, self-conscious) and after (happy, confident, glowing). However, in this particular set of pictures, I thought the before picture portrayed the woman as more beautiful than the after. See, in her before picture, she was wearing a beautiful red dress and stood laughing as the picture was being taken. However, in the second picture, her style and poise had completely changed. She no longer looked carefree, but looked as though she was trying to fit into a culturally contrived ideal. She had lost all 'personal spice' and stood there, covered in make-up, wearing revealing clothing.
The surprising thing about these pictures, was that I saw more 'flaws' in the 'after' picture, than the 'before'.
What is beauty? Is it intensional size and attitude or unawareness?
There is something to be said for beauty that is unaware; beauty that has flaws.
The same thing that draws us to the natural timelessness of linen, also draws us toward classical sculpture. It's the irregularity.
It's beauty of not being symmetrical.