Life imitating art, imitating beauty?

What is this power that beauty holds over us? What is beauty anyway? Ok, so this question can be answered with as many subjective responses as the question, What is art? We won’t go THERE tonight though.

Seriously I was talking to my counselor about my recent performance. I am trying to get it all straight in my head. That is very hard to do. I still don’t know exactly why I did it. I mean I do know what motivated me to do it. Of course as an artist, I really don’t have to justify anything. I just do the work and hope everyone else gets it and talks about it and continues the dialogue I started.

I realized that while I wanted to voice my opinion about the ideal of beauty that is perpetuated in the media, that is not the real reason I went bald. I realized it was much more personal than I even anticipated.

My counselor, an amazing woman, asked me to sit and think about this question. “What does beauty feel like to me?” I honestly couldn’t answer. To sit and think about beauty in this regard was very hard. I realized that beauty means so many different things to each and every one of us. She told me to stop and only think about me. I tend to do this. Over-analyze the  big picture rather than get personal.

I honestly don’t know if I have every felt truly beautiful. There were times where I thought I did, but those times were always when I was with someone, and they ‘made me’ feel beautiful. I don’t think that is fair. I don’t want to feel beautiful in someone else’s company. Oh wait, I mean of course I do but I don’t want to feel beautiful because of someone else. I want to feel beautiful because of me.

Did I tell you I almost got married in Second Life?

Yes this is me, or Gracie, ok both. I loved this dress,the hair, the flowers the atmosphere, but I didn’t feel beautiful.  What makes a bride feel beautiful? Is it because it’s her special day? The dress, makeup, hair-do? Is it that all the attention is on her or that her soon to be husband is waiting at the end of the aisle? Is it because everyone loves HER?

So what does beauty feel like to me? I realized this question is even harder because I am an artist. I see beauty everywhere. Here I go again. I need to think micro, not macro.

Sitting here thinking. Gosh this is hard.

I can say, I feel beautiful when I finish a painting. When it is completely done. When I know all the colors work together and there is nothing else I can do to it.I feel beautiful when someone says the piece is  beautiful. Wait, there I go again, external validation of beauty. Nooooooo.

I feel beautiful as an artist. I feel beautiful expressing myself even if it is asking myself if I am beautiful. There is beauty in the questions. There may be beauty in the answers, I just haven’t gotten that far yet.

I don’t know. I have sat in front of this post for a couple days now contemplating this power that beauty holds over me.

So after a couple days, I said Fuck it. I had to create. I had to work. I thought about Gracie and who she is. I always said she is my inner beauty. Now I even question this. Especially since this would mean my inner beauty is still the ideal/physical version of me.

What if she changed? I once made her smoke. I felt this made her less perfect. Then she went bald for me after the performance. What if she truly became my art. What if art imitates life imitates art, and maybe imitates beauty?

Kristine Schomaker is a new media and performance artist, painter and art historian living and working at the Brewery artist complex in Los Angeles. For over 14 years she has been working with various interdisciplinary art forms including online virtual worlds to explore identity and the hybridization of digital media with the physical world. Whether virtual or physical, the object-based work Kristine creates combines elements of color-based gestural abstraction, animation, pattern and design, neo-Baroque and Populence. Using installation, text, photography, mixed media, video and performance for her ongoing conceptual project My Life as an Avatar, she visualizes a narrative/dialogue with her virtual persona, Gracie Kendal. Kristine then documents her experiences on her blog. In 2012, exploring ideas of community, Kristine turned a local gallery into a modern day creation of Gertrude Stein’s salon of the 1920’s with a live mixed-reality dinner party merging the physical world with the online virtual world. Over the summer she also performed The Bald and the Beautiful in which she had her head shaved as a statement to challenge society’s standards of beauty. Currently, Kristine is working as an Artist-in-Residence through the Linden Endowment for the Arts creating an immersive virtual environment which she is planning to bring into the physical world via sculpture/public art work.

10 thoughts on “Life imitating art, imitating beauty?

    1. Great, brave post! Beauty is a great term. It’s so much more inclusive than “attractive” which is the word I usually think of in the context of your discussion. Attractiveness is about the power to attract a mate and therefore makes the observer arbitrator of one’s value. Beauty, to me, is more of an archetypal quality that transcends anyone’s particular opinion or point of view. That said, I think that the feelings we experience related to our own beauty are hard to separate from other aspects of self-esteem.

  1. First off, I have to say that I LOVE this blog for this precise reason – it brings such diverse opinions/experiences/point of views, etc. I really like Rowan’s comments in that they are so different from my own, yet in resonance – the concept of accepting that one is “not beautiful” is a powerful (and empowering) concept that, in my opinion, means finding peace with oneself and accepting the cards we have been dealt (and making the most of it). Like I recounted in a previous post, I too have struggled with body issues since I was a teenager. While I may fit in a category where others may find me attractive (I’m 5’10” and weight about 125lbs, I’m blond, etc.) I only recently came to accept what I look like and be at peace (relatively speaking) with it. One of the biggest barriers for me to surmount was a feeling that what I looked like did not match who I was on the inside. I still struggle with low self-confidence, but I’m more accepting of myself than ever before. In my case, I think that having been bullied as a child played a big part – I was raised in many countries, in many of which I stood out like a sore thumb. As a result, I never felt “acceptable” as I was. In order to fit in, I would try to appropriate the identity of others, failing to realize that it would only be by being true to myself that I would come to accept myself for who I am. Long story short, I think that self-acceptance goes far beyond the subjective ideal of beauty. And as I said elsewhere, personal beauty is about accepting yourself, both inside and out, for what you are and are not.

    1. Thank you for reminding me of this episode. You know, Twilight Zone was way ahead of it’s time in so many ways.I have referenced several episodes in relation to my work. I sing the body electric, Miniature and Five characters in search of an exit. All amazing episodes.

  2. I’ve been wanting to respond to this post for several days. Your comment, “I honestly don’t know if I have every felt truly beautiful” saddened me. But then your comment, “I feel beautiful as an artist” made me feel you have a sense of inner beauty.

    Being blessed with beautiful features doesn’t make a woman feel beautiful. She can preen in front of the mirror all day, but I have girlfriends who need constant reassurances that they are beautiful. Being unattractive doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t feel beautiful. I know women who have an inner beauty that seems to make any physical shortcomings inconsequential.

    I believe in inner beauty.

    I also believe that most of us, not all, women in Second Life use our avatars to express our inner beauty. We also express our beauty in our homes, furniture, gardens and the arts.

    jus my 2 cents

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