In traditional African art, the human form is exaggerated for effect, while the western traditions followed the rules of proportion and perfection when judging beauty. Of course, other traditions have different views- the Chinese urn, for instance, is deemed as ‘perfect’ for the imperfection it exhibits in one part, and all cultures have individual notions of beauty that do not generally conform to the Grecian ideal of beauty. Among the Asiatic peoples, being cross-eyed is a beautiful thing.
These disagreements about the notion of beauty will allow for one to accept that, indeed, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. From experience, one has seen beauty that transcends the tactile, physical. Mma nwanyi bu Agwa ya( a woman’s beauty is in her character. So also, I strongly believe that true beauty is first ‘ in deeds’, overall. Again, I work with the audacity of the artistic person, like the early Adam who was given all authority over created things, and who gave things their names as he deemed fit(Genesis 2:19;22). It is the prerogative of the creative: call it free verse, freedom of expression, or even, originality. The oddity automatically becomes ‘special’, favorite.
In contemporary times, the catwalks of so-called ‘high fashion is rife with supposed icons of beauty referenced by humanity’s great designers for showcasing their best works. We have seen shifts in the motion of the perfect model, or beauty. There were times when the gaunt, malnourished look was the ideal. This of course has only ever conformed to a centrist, western notion of beauty that excluded most of the others who continually baffled and mocked at the Miss Worlds that were crowned.
Diamonds come from deep dark places, gold from the murk and muddy dirt. Of Christ, at the height of his great offering, it was said that Psalm 39:5- every man at his best state is altogether vanity. There is a contradiction, a stumbling block, one of the disciples called it, about God’s dealings with man. How He has used the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. The hyperboles are quantum- the virgin birth, the king who had no proper room to be born, who grew up as a carpenter’s son and apprentice, and so on.
So in my work, I call it what it is. Let the viewer see it as he will. The bloodied red clothing of baby Jesus prefaces his future sacrifice. All in the picture is an offering that tells it as it is, hyperbolically. The contortions of the Virgin mother, the shielding mass of Joseph, the sprawling donkey that carried his maker- all point beyond, divining the future. I ask that charity grows in the heart of the viewer, for, physically perceived beauty does not translate to joy, neither is it always the best choice. There is another law at work here. The notion of good as a moral code shifts with interpretations and contextual usage. The Holy family is what it is, as you deem fit. It is beautiful.
The story in itself is aesthetically pleasing, with its associated moral values. Nothing stands in isolation. The way a story is told has as much impact on the import, mores, or meaning. The work The Holy Family has a life growing outwards.