Ugly or Beautiful? It is well known that beauty and ugliness are opposites. If that is so, how can art be ugly and beautiful at the same time? Some pieces of art are ugly to the eyes but beautiful mind. The Venus of Willendorf (Venus of Willendorf: 1-3) is an example of such. It is a small figure of a large woman. She has very large breast with skinny little arms rested on top of them. Her breast lay on her even larger stomach, which hangs down to just above her pubic area.
Her pubic area and belly button are well defined but there is only small evidence of nipples. Starting at her wide hips her thighs touch and press together down to the knees, and then become much smaller than the rest of her. Her head is completely wrapped with what seem to be braids, with no face visible. This figure, at first glance, and second, isn’t one of beauty. After all, it is a rather plump nude woman with no face. But, looking closer and noticing where the emphasis lies gives it a different look.
The woman’s breasts, stomach, and pubic area grab the most attention; all three of these being attributes of a woman’s fertility. It seems as though they are being used to show a celebration of her fertility and ability to have strong children like her. Looking deeper into this figure it can go from something ugly to something special. Another example would be Punitavati (Punitavati/Karaikkal Ammaiyar: Intro 8). Punitavati is a bronze sculpture of a rather grotesque woman. She is very lanky.
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She sits with her bony legs crossed and spread, her arms in front of her holding a small musical instrument. She has the face of a crone, with large high raised eyebrows, a long protruding nose, and a fang-toothed smile. Her entire body is bone skinny, except for a slight bulge in her stomach. This sculpture was made to symbolize her immense inner beauty. According to legend, this now hag-like woman was once stunning. Her husband had left her because she gave away one of his mangoes to a beggar. She then turned her god, the Hindu Shiva, offering up her beauty.
Shiva accepted, turning her into this figure. Her appalling appearance is used to show the beauty of her generosity and sacrifice. One other would be Rebellious Silence (Shirin Neshat, Rebellious Silence 20-33). This is a photograph of an Iranian woman, she is wearing a traditional Iranian women’s wardrobe, except her face is completely uncovered. Calligraphy is written across her entire face besides her eyes, and straight through the middle of her face she is holding up a gun barrel. This image wouldn’t strike most as an object of “beauty”.
It does grab your attention though. It makes you stare at the woman who is staring so intensely back at you. She wants to make her presence known and speak out in a country that doesn’t see women as equal. She is a strong and defiant woman. The longer you hold her gaze the more you can see the beauty in her braveness. All art may not be pleasing to look at, but a lot of the time there something deeper and more appealing in the meaning. Sometimes you must search to find the beauty of something ugly.
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