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Displaying Beauty

A few years ago, I was in San Francisco with my

mom.

Amid our day of walking around the city (before my

legs felt ready to snap off) we journeyed into the all-

impressive MOMA—or Museum of Modern Art to

those not brushed up on acronyms. With multiple


stories and massive, monochromatic walls, the

building was clearly meant to display colorful art of

all shapes and sizes. And, as we wandered about, we

saw just that.

The two of us took our time as we gazed up at giant

sculptures and studied small, framed pieces. Artists

ranged from those I’d never heard of to people like

Matisse and Frida Kahlo. And as we did our slow

little museum shuffle past the wide range of

exhibits, I was noting to myself the pieces that I

really liked…and the ones that I absolutely hated.

Straying a bit from my mom’s path, I made my way

to the corner of yet another large room. My eyes

immediately focused in on the display aptly named

“White Painting 3 Panel,” which consisted of—you

guessed it—three tall panels, each painted white. I

stood there, scanning the endless bumps of canvas

for a patch—a speck!—of color…but alas, it was

never to be found.

I was flabbergasted. Enraged. How could this, a piece

that would take me, an 11-year-old, about an hour

to make, be displayed so proudly in a well-respected

museum? How could something so boring even

qualify as art? I viewed (and still view) the “painting”

as an example of sheer laziness.

But why, then, did people care enough to put it up in

the MOMA?

Someone must have seen beauty in those three

panels.


Everyone has his or her own opinion of what makes

something beautiful. In the case of “White Painting,”

it may have been in the extreme understatement of

it all that people found charm, or perhaps its clean,

polished look. Although I personally don’t find it to

be all that eye-appealing, that’s not to say it isn’t.

For me, it’s vibrant colors that do it. I’ll go outside

after it rains, when the sky is still somewhat

overcast, and just stand there noticing the rich green

painted on each leaf, and the fantastic pink

blooming in our flowers. Everything is suddenly

alive. Fresh. Stunning.

To have such different views of something that, let’s

face it, never vacates our minds, is wonderful.

Someone may pick up a rock and think, “What am I

gonna do with this boring thing?” but a geologist

may come up behind him and see something

gorgeous in that piece of stone that took the world

so long to make. Similarly, a pregnant woman may

feel pudgy as her profile widens, but her husband

will see the radiant woman he fell in love with.

We tend to go through life like it’s a museum: we

judge nearly everything we see and leave nothing

without a price tag attached to it. Beauty, though, is

what makes us all just stop. And enjoy. With the

right person, we are able to see the good in even a

speck of dust.



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