Saturday, June 04, 2011

CULTure of Beauty

"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."
— William Goldman (The Princess Bride)

A friend and I went to see the CULTure of Beauty exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography. Walking in I was face to face with many of the models and images I try to avoid looking at lately, in order to maintain at least a slight amount of love for my own hips, thighs, nose and mouth that are uniquely me.

I was also confronted with images of a child beauty queen, a needle inserted into already pillowy lips to plump them further, and an elderly woman whose involuntary shaking made her grip her animal print cane tighter to balance on her black and white pumas, shaking that made her wide-brimmed red hat vibrate violently. In front of every model she ooh-ed and ahh-ed over their slender, air-brushed beauty, and I thought, she just doesn't get it. This is supposed to enrage, not encourage.

But then I realized that I could look at Christy Turlington's face for hours and still find it beautiful. As stated in the short documentary that is part of the exhibit, "beauty appeals to our most base instincts and our highest spiritual longings." The point of the exhibit, for me, was to be aware and mindful of that one image of beauty we're being sold today. And instead, to see the beauty in all faces, especially in the wizened, wrinkled face beaming out from beneath her shaking red hat.

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