beauty from disorder
"I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order."
- Wislawa Szymborska
I have explored in other galleries how the universal human passion for imposing order among things engenders a distinct class of visual beauty from order.
Paradoxically, the sight of disarray, loss, formlessness, or decline can also pack an aesthetic punch for viewers. The Japanese Buddhist aesthetic of wabi-sabi has formalized a principle to admire all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
Perceiving broken and disordered things as lovely may call for a certain practiced discipline. Studies have shown that perceptions of "aesthetic quality" improve in direct correlation with image complexity except where that complexity displays a high degree of randomness. Beauty Sí, chaos ¡No!
Yet chaos seems to characterize so much of what we observe in the universe that we may as well do our best to see the beauty therein. So very many creatures and things on Earth have, as you realize, gotten beaten up, chewed up, banged up, and left for scrap ... sometimes with visually splendid results.
The portfolios here explore this phenomenon. Echoing the late Polish poet Adam Zagajewski, I too have come “to praise the mutilated world.”
I look for unexpected beauty in contexts of disorder, and for the way in which flashes of beauty can balm instinctive distress at the sight of sad and difficult things. The galleries gathered under beauty from disorder examine this effect from several angles.
Because people react strongly to scenes where proper order is badly askew, and knowing how our dismay primes us for aesthetic distaste, I have sought out beauty within discordant contexts of chaos, confusion, and entropy. These are venues where the paradoxical appearance of beauty might prove striking, and serves as a balm to the act of looking at discomforting things.
Other images exalt the poignant dignity of formerly vibrant organisms that have died or are spiraling downward.
What invigorates these images, for me, is the tension arising from the pull toward the image's formal loveliness, on one hand, and a natural urge to pull away from scenes of a world in collapse, on the other. Gain and loss in the same instant.
Come, Night (2016)
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