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Beauty from an “Outsider’s” Viewpoint

Beautiful Traditional HairstyleI have been working hard in the studio lately to crank out as many paintings as I can before leaving for Hong Kong at the end of the month.  However, the pressure has been getting to me.  I want to create these beautiful little portraits – breath prayers – pictures of my prayers for my wife’s relatives.  I hope that people find these small paintings beautiful.

However, I am well aware that what is beautiful to me, may not be the same as what is beautiful to them.  Most recently I have been quite taken with accurately depicting traditional Chinese hairstyles.  I look at the way that women piled up their hair in all these elaborate shapes … they look so beautiful, so sculptural.  I make attempt after attempt, only to start over and over again.  It is hard to re-construct something from a few fuzzy black-and-white photographs or a few good drawings. 

Once in a while I wonder why I am so taken with re-creating the images of these beautieful styles of the past … especially as an outsider to the culture.  Of course, I think my wife is beautiful, and that may be part of it.  I am also wondering if there is something more, something deeper that I connect with.  Maybe it is the sense of quiet and attention to detail that holds my imagination.  Maybe it is because of the way I imagine their lives to have been, often socially isolated and far from their childhood homes.  Or maybe it is a combination of both of these – beauty coming from suffering. 

Regardless there is something that I am connecting with that I cannot explain.  I only hope that I can capture some sense of this beauty in my own work.