In Search of Beauty refers to a long-term project that reflects our commitment to the arts and the creative industry as a whole, by finding the beautiful in our lived environment. While the definition of beauty will always remain subjective, the common definition is a person, place, object, or experience which obtains the perception of balance and harmony with its surroundings.
In Search of Beauty documents a multigenerational experience of two women traveling to various cities, towns, and villages around the world. The blog features what we find beautiful in the locations we visit by highlighting what to see, who to know, and how to live.
As a scholar of Aesthetics, Jennifer Ford finds it easy to become lost in the various textbook definitions of “beautiful”, and how it seems at odds with the social and political environment of the last few years. She has traveled the world and inherently knows that most people are genuinely good, that most places have an element of beauty, and many experiences can result in beauty, given the right perspective. Unfortunately, the silver lining has been lost in the majority of our social media exchanges, news media productions, and even in some of our personal relationships. The tipping point came when she realized that fear and disappointment was growing in her 11-year-old son as he scanned newspapers for a current events assignment, which led to a discussion on how we can make a make a positive impact on the barrage of information and images we digest. The mother-son duo decided to seek out people who are doing beautiful things in their community, art and architecture created for the sake of beauty, and places on earth that could only be defined as sublime.
Bridget O'Reilly has always found a way to immerse herself in the art world, whether it was through an internship, job, traveling, or creating. She has had two aha moments in her life. The first unexpectedly occurred while touring the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris when she broke into tears over the sheer beauty of a place she had only ever seen in textbooks and movies; in that moment, she understood that kind of overwhelming emotion meant something greater than herself and art would forever be an integral part of her life. The second came when she brought artwork by artists from the Midwest into an East-Coast art fair last summer. As she unloaded the pieces carefully from the truck, she felt incredibly humbled to be able to share beauty that had never reached anywhere outside of its' hometown. Bridget knew that these two experiences (among many others) meant that she had more work to do in finding and spreading beauty to share.
We believe that beauty is everywhere. By starting in our own community and then working our way around the world, we hope to be a point of inspiration, positivity, and delight.
There is so much beauty in the world. When asked the question, “what do you find beautiful”, it is easy to point directly to my art history background and rattle off five of my favorite classical works of art. However, if I take time to really examine that question beyond its surface level implications I would talk about my son’s laugh, my grandmother’s garden, the work of my favorite author, and the thousands of beautiful moments in my day that I should be grateful for. Over the past year, it seemed so much easier to find the ugly. Social Media, the press, the blah landscape of a Midwest winter without snow contributed to a negative spiral of complacency and ambivalence to my surroundings and the people around me doing beautiful things. This project is a more than a travel blog, it is a practice. Finding beauty, recognizing it, and appreciating it are skills that take time, energy, and a certain amount of commitment.
Truly living demands that we go beyond the empirical realms of life, and beautiful objects symbolize our ability to do so. The relationship between the mind and world shown in the beauty of nature gives us hope that happiness can be fully realized. While the qualifications for beauty differ for everyone, clinical psychologists have shown that the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain (the medial orbital frontal cortex) lights up for everyone when they behold an object deemed beautiful.
There are many direct links between the beauty and the judgement of taste. In much of his first book “Analytic of the Beautiful”, Kant explains how beauty creates a compatible relationship in our mind and, additionally, between our mind and the world.
He tells us that beauty happens when something in the world stimulates a response in our minds. Simply put, we can experience beauty by having a feeling which enters our consciousness. This feeling does not necessarily need to produce and explanation for the object of beauty. While not its main intention, beauty brings about a harmony of the cognitive powers of judgement, reason, and understanding.
An object shows us its beauty when its form or design is equal to the expectations of our imagination and understanding. Kant says, “A natural beauty is a beautiful thing, artistic beauty is a beautiful presentation of a thing”. Beauty arises from the way in which the object appears to us. In other words, judgements of beauty grasp only the form of the object and the way in which it plays out in our understanding and imagination.
This year will be dedicated to the beautiful places, people, things, and experiences that are naturally occurring in our world. While this journey will be focused on recognizing beauty in others, my personal quest to recognize the beauty in myself will be at the forefront of my mind. I am aware of the potential dysmorphia that could occur when looking for the good in others. It would be easy to discount my own beautiful accomplishments, my physical beauty, or my beautiful relationships when I seek out the most outstanding form of beauty in others. There are many old adages about the nature of beauty in our lived experiences. I hope to prove that beauty can be more than an appreciation of pleasing symmetries. It can be a source of the good and the powerful.
Thoughts coming soon! Sorry, I've been busy designing the site and editing images :)