The following submissions — posted in alphabetical order by the entrants’ first name — each earned a invitation to the Beautiful Minds Symposium at Marlboro College, February 21-23, 2013. Enjoy the incredible thoughtfulness, creativity and diversity of ideas!
New Year’s Party in The Jolly Old Beast
Alexander Peters | Tampa Preparatory School ’13 | Tampa, FL
The 1850’s would mark the beginning of a new relationship between mankind and the earth. No longer was our planet a divine utopian vision fashioned for our existence, but rather an inherited sphere that had in fact fashioned us. Dinosaurs, the “terrible lizards,” as the scientist Richard Owen dubbed them, apparently had once ruled the landscape in absence of the many examples of fauna that would be recognizable, ourselves included. What posed a problem was the public’s lofty grasp of this concept. Nothing seemed to compare to these animals and all that was available to observe were unskilled scribbles and lumps of rock that meant nothing to an untrained eye. The pioneers of this field were lost in what they were looking at. It would take the hand of an artist to reach the masses and share this novel and humbling concept.
Benjamin “Waterhouse” Hawkins, a born illustrator and sculptor of the natural world, took on this challenge. Working in his homeland of England, the hub of prehistoric discoveries at the time and the very place where anyone had ever identified a dinosaur, Hawkins began his work constructing life size models of the monsters. What was there to go on? Hawkins observed a set of bones belonging to a gigantic herbivorous creature discovered by a man and his wife in some roadside gravel. It had a spike, not too dissimilar to a rhinoceros, broad weight baring bones, unique hips that distinguished it from other reptiles, and teeth of an iguana. Hawkins brought forth a stunning life size menagerie, producing many prehistoric beasts. Among them were the iguana toothed giants, aptly named “iguanodon,” Hulking quadrupeds sporting a nasal horn on their mammoth, beaked heads. Megalosaurus, a disgustingly huge carnivore also swaggered the grounds of the newly constructed Crystal Palace Museum in London.
On New Year’s Eve, 1853, Hawkins invited the founding fathers of the science of paleontology to an unforgettable dinner party, which he hosted inside of one of his pieces, in the open back of his fabulous iguanodon. Some of the most respected scientists of the era, including Curvier, Mantel, Owen, and many others, rejoiced in the event, their eternal legacy now represented by something more than ill attempted drawings and scientific notes. It was the melding of the left and right brain. Art assisted science in a mission that dethroned man from his throne as the principal product of creation, giving us a much grander title. We are certainly not the only species to have ever ruled the earth, but we are the only that can look back and marvel at the wondrous variation of life, as participants and observers. That night almost two centuries ago, myth met fact, extinction met the living, imagination met examination, and the hands of creators met the hands of surveyors. Truly a moment of beauty.
Things have changed quite a bit in that time as far as understanding dinosaurs and their kin. Specifically, iguanodon is now more accurately delineated as a partially bipedal, swift moving plant eater that sports a spike on each thumb, not on its nose. Megalosaurus is currently depicted as a warm blooded predator related to the dinosaurs that would become birds. The original data of those early explorers of the past has been cast aside but there spirit could not be any more inspiring as our understanding of just how grand life on this planet continues to amaze. It is probably best summed up by a song those scientists made up at that New Year’s party, “The jolly old beast is not deceased/ There’s life in him again!”
Alex Ruiz and Odette Blaisdell | Bard High School Early College ’15 | New York, NY
Alex: The question of why our piece is beautiful was extremely frustrating to answer. We couldn’t come to a consensus, we couldn’t even think. Part of the reason that we could not decide whether our piece was beautiful or not was because I felt un-entitled. Who am I to say what is beautiful? What is beauty really?
Odette: Confronting this question forced us to consider what beauty itself is. Answering this made beauty into a looming, frustrating creature, so when we tried to define it, I began to resent beauty overall. Trying so hard to define such indefinance takes away its power. Beauty was no longer beautiful when we attempted to explain it.
Alex: Instead, we examined what is ugly. We thought, perhaps, we could define beauty adversely in this way. Our efforts were futile, not because we couldn’t list things that were ugly, but we quickly discovered that ugliness itself is as indefinable as beauty itself. And though we couldn’t explain it, we still desired to reconcile our feelings with something tangible. Thus, that’s how the process of creating the piece began.
Odette: Our piece began with the image of hairy fingers. This image was completely arbitrary, chosen when Alex said she pulls the tiny hairs from the spaces between the joints of her fingers. Though this idea was no more inspiring than any other image, maybe because it was so random we thought it was an appropriate beginning—something we could expand upon and change. And in a way, the ugliness of this image made it easy to just start working recklessly because there was no pressure to actually capture beauty.
Alex: The impulsivity of how we worked was both frightening and exhilarating. In a way we stepped into this project blindly and because of that it required an incredible amount of faith in something we knew nothing about.
Odette: The many layers and the extended process are part of the beauty of our project. First, we had a month long mission of drawing fifty fingers each. Next, we collaged them in the form of a hand, and filled in any negative space with charcoal details of palm creases. We briefly included words of things we considered ugly, but ultimately we decided to cut them out and leave the hand isolated. Then, by chance we found an old window screen and brought it outside with a tube of black ink to experiment on our piece. The video shows the rest of the process in a compilation of photo and video that transformed our still image into something locomotive. In a way, this is what beauty does: it moves. When something is beautiful, it absolutely pulses with motion–it cannot keep still. Of course, our piece is not beautiful because it literally moves in the video. It has a movement beyond the video. It has motion in the fingers all pointing at each other, and in the viewer’s eyes tracing the directions of the charcoal. Of course, seeing one movement doesn’t encompass everything that’s ever moved, so our piece only has some of the many traits of beauty.
Alex: Despite all of the confusion about how to define our piece, I think a few aspects of the piece possess qualities of beauty that can be found in all objects. Amongst these universal qualities of beauty, I think lies chance, which was a major part of our piece. This is the part of the piece which controls itself, transcending us, the viewer, and even the subject. For example, the chance that our video may have captured some of the fluidity and warmth of the light on that day, which left shiny imprints on the ink as Odette spread it, or the tension with which the screen shifted over our collage, or the fact that fingers, each made individually and without much relation to the others, were able to fit together into to the shape of a hand, or the softness of the paper- all these small elements which were not necessarily in our control, but by chance we were able to capture, resembles a sort of beauty to me. These aspects of the piece which weren’t planned are just as evocative to me as I hope they are to some viewers- my experience when viewing the piece for the first time in it’s completion was just as infantile as your experience viewing it will be.
To expand on the idea of honesty, I think this piece should also be considered beautiful because it was made in the way Odette and I saw it. This is not to say that it is beautiful because we created it, or that it is beautiful because what we personally think is beautiful defines beauty for all of humanity. Rather, I think it is beautiful because Odette and I tried to create it with unbiased eyes- my own perspective and subjective take on beauty I am sure is just as muddled, conflicted, and enigmatic as any other individual’s.
As we stated before, much of the process of creating this piece was random. Therefore, I think it can be said that much of the essence of our piece lies in the idea that reality as we see it, with it’s randomness included, is enough in itself to be considered beautiful. Ultimately, in making this piece we were exploring and becoming comfortable with the idea that what we see is enough to be beauty. A simple finger is enough. Beauty does not have to be eternal, rich, or even rewarding. The ecstatic feeling which comes from viewing beauty, at least I think, lies ultimately in that honest, unrepeatable chance that we get to experience something new, and strange, and in that specific moment that we see it in- beauty is when we feel that moment of impact as so many elements outside of us converge inexplicably, yet undoubtedly. When I witness beauty, I feel fully alive, and fully aware of that convergence: beauty is a pressure point.
Beauty is Healing
Alyssa Jarvis | Antigua Girls High School ’13 | St. Peters, Antigua
Beauty is a thing of elegance that many people yearn for.
A passage way to possibilities, that can’t be bought by rich or poor.
Beauty is perfection only placed upon the chosen.
And just like age it evolves, never frozen.
Time is but its slow death, causing it to fade in the blink of an eye or wipe of sweat.
I believe beauty is our demise fighting to get what was not placed upon us.
Wanting a birth right of beauty.
That we can never trust.
Beauty is my angry scars on my hands and face
Beauty is the horrid past that I cannot erase
Beauty is sin.
Indulgence of vanity.
Decadence of impurity
Beauty is our biggest whim.
We are wrapped around its finger.
And our patience stretched thin
We yearn for beauty.
We die for beauty.
We change for beauty.
Beauty is Beautiful
But the most beautiful part of all
Is picking yourself back up no matter how hard the fall
So I’m stitching up these scars
And making myself new
Because deep down, though you may not see it
I am beautiful too.
Anna Berger | Burr and Burton Academy | Dorset, VT
Growing up in Vermont, I have been accustomed to a landscape so beautiful I could not imagine a childhood without it. We are surrounded by rolling green mountains of forest and ever flowing springs. Needless to say, this is accessible in many backyards. As I’m headed towards another step in life, I have come to realize the importance of this environment. That in order to sustain this beauty that we have known for generations, we must work to create the smallest of human footsteps. Not just take from our land and resources, but also give back so that we can not be left with nothing. Rather leave these lands in better condition to improve both habitats and natural life cycles. To create a beautiful life for ourselves, let us start with changing aspects of our daily lives. Every decision we make to improve the way we live will lead us to another. With positive energy and the drive to make a difference in our own communities, we can experience a life more beautiful than we have ever known.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
Cat Clauss | International Polytecnic Highschool ’13 | San Dimas, CA
Hello my name is Catherine R. Clauss and I am 17 years old. I live in San Dimas California and I go to the International Polytechnic high school in Pomona California. When I first heard about this contest and decided that I would enter a piece, I honestly had no idea what I was going to describe, or depict. But as I sat there in my desk at school and looked around I remembered every thing I had learned from my past group members. I remembered their different opinions, and their different ways in which they saw the world. Each was unique and to me… beautiful. So I created this painting. I know when you first look at this and think of the prompt you may think “This girl didn’t understand the prompt.” But I did. What you see is a bunch of different people, of different ages, and ethnicities, with different things around them. Those different things are the things that individual would think is beautiful.
The old Indian women has her young granddaughter behind her, ready to carry on the traditions of her people, who are shown in a large crowed below the girl. This represents the old woman’s idea of beauty because she loves her customs and religion, and thinks that it is beautiful that her granddaughter and all the generations after her will learn and uphold the traditions she holds so dear. While the 20 year old Asian is surrounded by his home, technology (including the computer coding behind him in the back round.), and some of his culture’s traditional items, like the Kimono. (The middle eastern dragon is often depicted in the Asian culture as a serpent shaped creature, with a brilliant mind, and sometimes even a protector.)Things that surround him in his life and his family’s history and culture that help shape his opinion. The Middle aged Native American is surrounded by scene of nature which he would consider beautiful due to the fact his culture is very oriented on persevering nature. The Caucasian female, would think works of art or writing would be beautiful, as she is surrounded by a painting palette and a quill. The African American teenager is surrounded by fashion and music, and a car she would really like. Last is the young Mexican boy surrounded by different toys and extinct but cool, creatures. Also shown is a scene where he sits with his mother on a wooden rocking chair. These are things that express the beauty of a child’s mind.
Some may think that I am just showing off what others would think are beautiful but I am not, I am showing the beautiful fact that everyone has their own opinion or idea of what beauty is. An idea that is shaped by the ways the person is raised, and the things that surround them as they grow. Things like tradition, family, friends, school, the area they grow up in, all these things help shape their opinion of what beauty is. And their opinions change as they grow and develop their minds. Even when they are as old as 80, their minds and opinions are still changing. This is the beautiful thing I wish to show all of you. The individuality of each person and their thoughts on the question “what is beauty?”
Thank you for your consideration and I hope you enjoy my piece as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Daniel Wallock | Besant Hill School ’14 | Santa Barbara, CA
Removed at the author’s request. Watch for his book, coming soon!
Jacob Kydd | High Mowing Waldorf School ’15 | Arlington, MA
Beauty is not necessarily perfection. Sometimes an object’s flaws are more beautiful than its flawlessness. The natural perfection of an apple itself is beautiful, but its flaws make it unique and therefore more real and tangible. The question is: why do flaws accentuate beauty. I believe that although absolute perfection can be beautiful in a way, it is never unique. Flaws are what really bring out the individualistic nature of something. A unique object is more beautiful than a perfect replica. A hand-made flower pot is more beautiful than a factory made one even with, and because of, its flaws. In my painting the cracks on the apple demonstrate how flaws can increase something’s beauty by unifying the perfect and imperfect.
The Hidden World of Fluid Dynamics
Josh Wolper | Moravian Academy ’13 | Easton, PA
Science and art are one and the same; they only differ in perspective.
Fluid dynamics surround us everyday, from pouring cream into coffee to navigating the flow of traffic on the way to work. We sometimes find difficulty in appreciating things that we take for granted, such as the fluid flow of blood, working its way through us even now. Yet, the wonder of fluid dynamics does not stop at their incredible importance, they also encompass an incredible beauty. This beauty, when examined, inspires a desire to look closer at the things we see everyday. We miss so much in our lives. We are constantly in motion, hurriedly moving from point A to point B. But this leaves so many gaps in our lives- we miss out on point C, and point F, and even point U. It is important that we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us everyday. This is possible if we all just STOP for a moment…
And take that second glance at the dew on the grass. Or notice the way the wind dances with the leaves in late autumn. Or watch that cream spread and swirl throughout the mug. Or to even watch the orchestrated chaos of traffic and its incredible fluidity.
Everything around us is beautiful, we just have to take the time to see it.
Beauty is the Awe Inspiring Warmth of Sun Touching the Soul
Kinsey Thomas | Sandia High School ’16 | Albuquerque, NM
Beauty follows rules unknown to man, and cannot be defined by the perfect slant of a woman’s nose, or the depth of the cleft in a man’s strong chin. Beauty is the asphyxiating pressure on your chest when looking upon something that raises the serotonin levels in one’s body to immeasurable levels. The truth is beauty cannot be calculated, there are no rules and the guidelines are fuzzy at times. Instead, society has created a face that “is beauty,” dubbing everything else as not worthy of being beautiful. Being beautiful is not a shade of platinum blonde or being able to bench seventy-five percent of your body weight. A sterile but professionally designed house doesn’t make it a beautiful home, just like the perfect curvature of a freshly trimmed juniper is not a true look at nature’s physique.
Beauty is raw and powerful, not brittle like that bones of a little girl starving herself because beauty has been defined by a malnourished model that wears her skeleton outside her skin, with every bone visible. It isn’t the boy consuming unnatural substances so that he can gain muscle mass when he doesn’t even realize what his body so chalked full of hormones will become. Beauty is less of a look and more of a feeling, the awe inspiring warmth of sunlight touching the soul. The sun is vital for life on the planet, and the warmth of its rays can make even the grumpiest of cats bask in life. Beauty is life, and everything in it.
Beauty in Chicago
Mary Malina | Providence St. Mel ’13 | Forest Park, IL
Before I started my submission, I couldn’t find a way to put my perspective of beauty into words. Because of this, I decided to ask the people of my city what they thought of beauty. I asked both strangers and people that I knew. Through this project, I had the opportunity to learn about different opinions of beauty from all types of people. My submission is beautiful because it sends the message that no matter where you’re from, how much money you have, or what your ethnicity is, you are able to see the beauty in others around you as long as you open your heart.
Beauty is Science, Art, History and Nature Combined
Mohammed Ismail | St. Joseph School ’13 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
We, human beings, have discovered many things, and based on that knowledge we acquired through time, we have given all of them names. We have been naming them from the beginning: technologies, celestial bodies, places, ideas or anything we can all hope to imagine. Our beautiful nature is our ideology the way that we feel and imagine or philosophize. So it is unquestionable that beauty exists, but what does beauty mean? What is beautiful? These are the questions that we seek answers for.
Since the beginning of our formal education, we have been taught to answer questions by demonstration, rather than defining them. Beauty is hard to define, and demonstration leads to defining. Every one might have his own feelings, his own ways to explain almost everything, beauty is one that might be a mystery to most, everyone tries to uncover beauty, but” beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. But if you show any one something beautiful, he/she will surely tell you if it is beautiful or not.
I went for a tour to the Fasilades castle, and I took these pictures, when I showed them to other people, the comment I always got was, “what a beautiful picture”, but for me they were just like any other pictures I had taken. These pictures were with my godfather, and once when I needed them most, I had a difficulty in attaining them, because he was not around, I tried to look for other replacements, but there were none. It reminded me of an old saying in Ethiopia which goes like this, “Gold in your hands is just like copper”, which is obviously right. We know the beauty of something when it is not with us or when we have lost it. So when I found it, it was more beautiful than ever for me, because I thought I had lost it, when I needed it most. Is there beauty in losing? No, it was truly beautiful, losing it just showed me what was there, and what I didn’t realize.
Some people say beauty is art, some say science, most argue it is nature, and few, in history. What if there is something that combines all these, something that has all this at its disposal, and shows it proudly and gracefully for those who know where to look, and truly want to see. Then it must be the one, the most beautiful thing known to man, and that I believe I have found. This is the center of the once great empire of Fasilades, situated in Gondar, Ethiopia; this is one of the most prized possessions of our country, this is one of the reasons why Ethiopia is symbolized as a beautiful lady, with her skirt the shape of Ethiopia on the map. Within its walls, are six castles, these castles had been built by generations of emperors that reigned over its empire, it has the history of at least six great kings, including the great king Fasilades himself, who brought peace and prosperity to the time. The architecture and the technologies used in building these castles were very advanced for that era. The engineers used these great technologies to build these wonderful castles they had planned and dreamed for their great kings. They chose the best area, for politics, society and luxury. Science is beautiful. These castles were designed in the most skillful and artistic way to reflect the society of that great age, to last for the coming generations, to remember them by. Art is beautiful. These palaces were created by mankind, but it is nature that perfected it. Most say nature has degraded it with the help of time; it is now in ruins, its greatness is gone, it is just a place to remind us how great we were, but that to me is ignorance. Off course it reminds us of our past, and how power full we were, but it only adds to it its beauty, adds to its historical beauty that already is there, if you can see open mindedly and deeply. History is beauty. It is ruined but is whole, it is modern but ancient, it is artificial but natural, and it is somehow a reflection of physics: to be at the same place at the same time, just like Albert Einstein predicted. Of Biology: To be alive and dead like a virus. Of chemistry: to be in different phases at the same point. To see a stone organized by men, to make a wall to protect them from the enemies of nature and man himself, now gives life to nature, to bear a plant, that is full of life and hope from a stone, that is cold and dead, how ironic, but life is beautiful, nature is beautiful. This Place is Beautiful.
The Shoe-Box Song
Nathaniel Brown | Home School | Potsdam, NY
Beauty is a multi-faceted thing. It is the traditional definition; of beauty in sight or sound. Beauty is also in emotions. The most beautiful thing is, I believe, happiness.
I was recently asked to do an announcement in church for Operation Christmas Child, a program our church participates in. It distributes donated shoeboxes filled with presents to poor children all over the world. For this announcement, I wrote a song.
U’i i ka hana no’eau (Art is beautiful)
Nikki Ama | James Campbell High School ’13 | Ewa Beach, HI
My drawing shows where I’m from and who I am. The theme is Hawai’i and the aina, which means “land” and how the land shows off the natural beauty and culture of Hawai’i. Self-expression is also a way to show a beauty that many people never see.
The Hula dancer represents the culture of the people who live here. Hula is the traditional dance of the Hawaiian people and every movement tells the story of great battles, inspiring tales of strength and cunning, and the struggles that the Hawaiians have fought and overcome. With Hula comes chants, or oli’s which are the voices of the Hawaiian people and also tell their tales.
Musical instruments like the hollowed out gourd produced beats and rhythm for the oli’s and in their own way tell a story with its deep monotone sound. The Hula dancer’s hair flows into the wave-woman because the people of Hawai’i and the ocean are one and like the Hula dancer, the oceans of Hawai’i tell their story with every crash against the islands rocks.
The rocks, too, are like art. The Ko’olau mountain range looks as if it had been crafted by the hands of a larger being and show off the islands beauty and strength. The canoe represents the craftsmanship of the people and is considered an art form and in the drawing, the stone hands use a canoe to create mountains and ridges.
I formed an “A” with the surf board, fish, and canoe for the word aloha since that is the theme for Hawai’i. The surfboard is also symbolic because people here like to surf since the oceans are beautiful, and that is another type of self expression.
All these illustrations pull together what I see in Hawai’i. All flow with each other and reside with each other, because the people, the culture, the land, and the sea are what makes up Hawai’i, and that is what I call beautiful.
Beauty is…Simply Me
Octavio Duarte, Eric Rivera and Christian Alcaraz | Arroyo Valley High School ’15 | San Bernadino, CA
Beauty can be a single image or drawing that can capture and portray the different cultures, backgrounds, and the life-styles of just one person.
My fellow partner Octavio Duarte, is the artist of the image and the teenager we will be evaluating for this project. Octavio is literally the “man behind the display.” Art has become a very huge influence in his life, and the image that will be shown is a collaboration of his backgrounds, cultures, and his life-styles. We began analyzing his backgrounds and by the looks of it, Octavio is Latin-American with a little amount of a Japanese heritage.
In the final image, the bird is settled and surrounded by Octavio’s culture and background. It is sitting on top of the Japanese cherry blossom and is surrounded by the Mexican sugar skulls. The way the bird is facing is showing symbolism to the way that, Octavio see’s and lives in a life full of a Latin-American culture, since it is looking directly at the skull. The cherry blossom’s pedal that is placed in between the bird and the skull is used as a way of showing that even though he practices more of his Latin-American culture; he is still taking a glimpse and learning more of his Japanese background. The letters above the skulls, bird, and blossom are in the language of the angels, and it is quoted by Ayn Rand, which states “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me…,” Representing Octavio’s spirit of ambition wanting to reach something greater without paying attention to those who want to stop him from doing so.
The different versions of the drawing represent Octavio growing as a person and discovering new facts about himself. The first version includes a similar bird, quote, but the skull on the left, and the tree is different; it’s just roses that symbolize that he felt good as himself and as a person, and he even thought of his life as beautiful as a blooming rose. The skull on the right is of a girl and she is maturing into a different look as well as Octavio maturing and beginning to look different. The second version of the drawing includes the exact same bird, quote, roses except for the same skull on the left. This time the skull on the right has a more matured look and is far more detailed. Also the flower that is in the hair of the skull on the left now has a more detailed view to it. The hair has grown and looks completely different as well.
Finally, the third version of the drawing includes a whole new item; the roses have now become a Japanese cherry blossom. The reason behind this is that as Octavio grew even more and dug up his past information using letters and pictures, he has discovered that he has Asian roots. That’s why the bird now sits on that cherry blossom as it is looking at the skulls and that pedal derived from his Japanese heritage. So in the end as the title states “Beauty is… Simply Me” it doesn’t mean he thinks beauty is his physical appearance, but him, as a person, where he is from and who he is.
Beauty in a Moth
Yasi Zeichner | Vermont Technical College VAST program ’13 | Northfield, VT
This spring, my siblings and I found a large, dried, brown chrysalis. We kept it, wondering what kind of butterfly or moth would hatch out of it, and hoping it would be a novelty of some kind. When the insect began to break through, we gathered round to watch the process. This is a slideshow of the transformation of the moth that emerged; a Polyphemus moth.
I think these photographs show beauty in many ways. There is beauty in the warmth and depth of the colors on the moth’s wings, and beauty in the intricate details of the insect’s whole design, from the eye-spots and stripes on its wings, to the fuzzy hairs on its body, to its little black-tipped feet. The fact that such a magnificent creature can emerge from a dry, drab chrysalis, starting out almost all body and no wings, and in the course of two or three hours, pumping its wings to their full size and then flying away; that is beautiful. Also, beauty is in the way that Nature puts such care and love into every detail of this little insect, despite the fact that the moth will only live for a few days. I think that if we slow down sometimes, and take the time out to watch some of the little things that are happening all around us, we will have the chance to observe some amazing processes, and see beauty at work. I also think there is beauty in taking the time and effort to make little, seemingly insignificant things beautiful, as Nature did with the Polyphemus moth.