However, there is an unintended and unfortunate side-effect to all of this ready access to aesthetic wonder: We've become a society of beauty gluttons.
New images bombard us constantly. Every day I undergo a delicious assault of wondrous imagery. Pinterest overwhelms my senses, and after a while I just have to let all of the beauty wash over me in waves of awe. But I find myself waxing nostalgic for the time as a teenager that a single image would refresh my senses for days...weeks...sometimes years. I would stumble on an artwork that really spoke to me on the cover of a card in a random gift shop in a mall I would visit on a vacation, and I would stare at the purchased card all the way home, putting it up in my room and letting it fill my heart with motivation, awe, magic, belief. Part of me really misses the singularity of that experience.
|This painting by Helena Nelson Reed captivated me as a teenager.|
Now, I see new images just as soul-stirring as the ones on those cards every single day. New artwork by an entire globe of kindred spirits is brought before me like a feast before a queen. And unlike a physical feast, it can be a challenge to know when I'm "full" of beauty and any more will leave me a bit overwhelmed. I start depending on the visual stimulation like a drug. I become numb to anything less than the best, and any emotional "beauty buzz" I feel lasts for less and less time. As a fine art photography model, I can have a photographer send me an incredible image from a session that blows me away with its emotive and mystical brilliance, and yet a few days later I am restless for my next "fix."
I know...I'm mixing my metaphors here...beauty is both a feast and a drug. It makes me wonder just how the admirable Aesthetes of the Victorian age would respond today to Pinterest and Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. These followers of visual pleasure who counted beauty as their religion and not just as shallow impression...would they also be overwhelmed and not know how to deal with such a steady visual assault? Would they remain content to gaze upon the beauty of a sunflower for hours when they have new images by Brian Froud, by Tim Walker, by Forest Rogers, displayed before them on a semi-regular basis like the most wonderfully-formed of bouquets ever?
How would they deal without becoming reliant and anaesthetized? How do you? How can I?