Lynn Anderson Fine Art

The Restorative Power of Beauty


 

When our lives seem busy and chaotic, why do we often find time to engage with what is beautiful, whether it is listening to soulful music, watching a dance performance, or enjoying a beach sunrise? Do we appreciate alluring beauty because it nurtures our sense of well-being? Could there also be other influences at play?

According to author Steve McIntosh, beauty re-establishes our connection to what is good, and what is true in his book, The Presence of the Infinite. Experiencing beauty often becomes a source of renewal and refreshment and wonder. McIntosh goes on to describe the beautiful, the true and the good, as possessing a type of gravity. 1   Is it no wonder that our homes and offices are graced with art suggestive of meandering landscapes, beckoning forests, stark color and form and botanic ingenuity? Is it no wonder that we search for uplifting music when we drive or exercise? Or, stop to admire the graceful movements of Tai Chi, dance, and yoga in a city park.

Perhaps, we seek to anchor ourselves to an infinite presence, intuitively knowing that beauty acts as a restorative, healing influence which soothes and inspires our imagination.

Curtain 3 Panel Canvas
Photography by Lynn Anderson

Seemingly for any creative endeavor to be successful, an artist must capture a dynamic magnetism in their chosen art form. Over time an artist’s commitment to following their creative process (through trial and exploration) gains strength like a well worked muscle, according to McIntosh.2 In this way, artists draw their viewers attention to the “imaginal realm” if, at times, only momentarily.  As we experience artistic beauty even briefly, our sense of security and happiness, both seen and imagined is enhanced.

Could it be that beyond our desire for novelty, evocative beauty offers us a glimpse of our place within the larger community of life– in an ever re-creating emerging field of creativity? Mary Oliver, avid naturalist and poet wrote in her book of essays Upstream, “…this self-hungers for eternity.” 3  Her words  imply that beyond our personal musical taste or our design criteria there exists a profound need to connect with ever lasting unity.

Like our ancient ancestors who left rock art etchings on cave walls, do we crave reminders to our expanded identity in truth and goodness?  Could this be the reason the musical Hamilton is so popular?  Lin Manuel Miranda’s irresistible lyrics and musical score embraces contemporary hip hop that creates an unforgettable magnetism. In the musical, the main characters each grow to embrace their highest selves, leaving an indelible mark in American history. Watching the arousing production, the audience is nourished and affirmed by the inherent call to truth and goodness.

As I walk through the autumn woods, like so many seasons before, my photographer’s eye scours the landscape for unique possibilities. In my wanderings, I notice a tangerine tree in someone’s front yard, radiant sumac stand framing a backdrop of a deep blue Minnesota lake, and a forgotten glacial swamp covered with blue green algae. Mother Nature’s persuasive artistry beckons. I search for the magnetism to unfold in my viewfinder.  I watch for familiar botanic images to transform into colorful unknown abstractions, and I yearn for the fresh imaginal world that is everlasting, beautiful and good.

  1. McIntosh, Steve. The Presence of the Infinite: the Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House, 2015, p. 113.
  2. McIntosh, Steve. The Presence of the Infinite: the Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House, 2015, p.113.
  3. Oliver, Mary. “Upstream: Select Essays.” Upstream: Select Essays, Penguin Press, 2016, p.127.

 

The Space Between Now and Next