Aesthetis and Ethics

Dear Orchid, I have been following the discussions about
aethetics. It seems that a lot of confusion exists between
aesthetics and ethics. In art display, workmanship, and
notariety means value. In jewelry value is assigned by rarity
and workmanship. When the two cross lines much confusion
exists. To me value is the name of the game. I am a stone
cutter. Value exists in something of rarity and beauty. In
jewelry rarity exists in the stones used. Workmanship on the
stones and the metal determine the durability, wearability, and
value of the piece. They go hand in hand. Ethics becomes a
problem when we assign values to the rarity without the
workmanship or vice versa. A rare stone with poor cutting has
a lot less value than a properly cut rare stone. All two carat
stones in the same clarity and color do not have the same value.
The same goes for treated stones versus certified natural.
Meaning totally untreated (except for the cutting).

The ways we represent the stones and jewelry to our customers
causes mass confusion. Much of this confusion results in law
suits. About what? The value of the piece. I strongly
disagree with the way jewelry is maketed in the U.S. Customers
should know up front exactly what they are buying.

Gerry Galarneau
Galarneau’s Gems - We Cut Rocks (WCR)


I believe that I started this thread on aesthetics. Altho’ I’m
probably not the first person on orchid to bring up this topic
in general. I wasn’t asking about ethics. I’m very interested in
the topic or aesthetics in other art forms also. I’m fascinated
at what is offered up in American popular culture in music and
fine art and jewelry as being “beautiful” when I find much of it
to be awful and “kitschey.” So I am struggling with discovering
the roots of why certain works appeal to me and other works that
many people spend lots of meney on turn me off and leave me
cold. It’s just a very fascinating topic for me. Why do we like
certain aesthetics? Why do these aesthetics or “fads” come and
go. What is classic beauty that always works and looks beautiful
in any era?

Let me give you some personal observations–you don’t have to
agree or disagree. These observations are really about my
reactions, not about the works themselves. When I go into
Tiffany’s, I greatly admire the craftsmanship, but I find the
designs totally boring and unimaginative. Traditional Native
American jewelry I also find boring.

Some of the “organic” castings from twigs–I seem to vascillate
between liking it and not liking them.

In fine art, Pollack’s stuff is no-talent BS; Rothko’s
depressing nothing. Warhol’s gimmacky marketing. But Renoir’s
portraits still stand the test of time. Just a few examples, of
what I mean by aesthetics.

Perhaps we should go back and define our terms:

From the New College Edition of the American Heritage

aesthetics: 1. the branch of philosophy that provides a theory
of the beautiful and of fine arts; 2. in the philosophy of Kant,
the branch of metaphysics concerned with the laws of perception.

ethics: the study of the general nature of morals and the
specific moral choices to be made by an individuadl in his
relationship with others.

craft: skill or ability in something, especially in handwork or
the arts; proficiency, expertness

I wasn’t asking about craftsmanship–which is the expect
execution of an aesthetic design. And I wasn’t asking about
ethics, which is honestly representing something. I was asking
about aesthics.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Maybe I should shut up.
At any rate, I’m struggling with the “perception” part of "WHY"
we like and dislike certain things. What is it about art that we
perceive as being beautiful and why?


Virginia Lyons

Virginia, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. AND my favorite
quote from Oscar Wilde “Art is not a thing it is a way.” You will
never get people to agree on this subject it is too diverse.
That is what I like about Art the most.

Dear Virginia

quoting you "At any rate, I’m struggling with the “perception"
part of “WHY” we like and dislike certain things. What is it
about art that we perceive as being beautiful and why?”

My 2 cents worth One’s perception of what’s beautiful is like an
acquired taste. It comes with the culture, upbringing,
environment, education. A little bit of genetics works here
making you more inclined to go for example for the wild rather
than the subdued, etc. And hey, don’t forget advertising,
marketing, or movies and television all contributing to molding
a common taste. But doesn’t everybody know this?

quote: "What is classic beauty that always works and looks
beautiful in any era? "

I beg to disagree. You only have to look at the platipus lips,
ostrich necks, tiny feet or chalk white faces of people from
other cultures. Not to mention their ear piercing music. Do you
think they’ll find Cindy Crawford appealing? Do you like opera?

By the way, did you receive the picture I sent?


             I don't know where I'm going with this. Maybe I
should shut up. At any rate, I'm struggling with the
"perception" part  of "WHY" we like and dislike certain things.
What is it about art that we perceive as being beautiful and

For me aesthetes is felt in my soul being when a piece of art
touches me. It touches the place in me that meets with the artist
depth of feeling, while creating the art. It melts in my heart
and stays there for all time. Each piece of this art holds beauty
that remains the same for as long as I live. It connects with the
heart and soul and makes my body feel joy. It is a unique feeling
that belongs to only me and the creator of the work of art that I
love. It matters not if any other person has any feeling for the
particular piece or not, and price has no place in this feeling,
nor does ethics or the mechanics of the piece. It is the touch of
spirit to me, and about me and no other.

Happy regards,

Dear Virginia:

Keep going Virginia it’s a very interesting topic but I don’t
think you will ever really know the reason why. It seems to me
the variables are just to over overwhelming to provide any
scientific analysis. Culture, economics, past exposure, events
and probably a host of other disciplines all enter int o how each
of us perceived things. And if you ever determine why “you”
like or dislike something it would be difficult to extrapolate
that to another perso n.

Will the knowledge of what constitutes good art effect how that
person creates something new? Would he be better off not knowing?
I have always thought that the person that creates “art” for
himself will be the person that sets new trends. And those trends
might not be appreciated by the present generation. Most of us,
including my self, create objects that seem to be in the normal
or present mode of design but include our own inspirations. It is
probable economics that drives us. We need to sell to stay alive
or we hate failure.

Also, I don’t think you can separate out craft from aesthetics.
New techniques and materials come along that do change the way we
look at things .

George Hebner

           In fine art, Pollack's stuff is no-talent BS;
Rothko's depressing nothing. Warhol's gimmacky marketing. But
Renoir's portraits still stand the test of time. Just a few
examples, of what I mean by aesthetics. Perhaps we should go
back and define our terms: 

Yikes Virginia, don’t scare me. Traditional Native jewelry is
boring. Jackson Pollack is talentless? Mark Rothko is nothing?
Warhol’s not entirely to my taste, but honestly, if I had to live
in a world populated only by Renoirs, I’d go to sleep, if I
didn’t do myself in first…snoricide most likely. :slight_smile: Beauty
is in the eye of the beholder…don’t know who said it, but it
was probably someone on television from The Home Shopping
Channel. Haven’t noticed a beauty, or an aesthetics barometer on
the market lately, but if popular opinion is any indication, the
jewelry stores at the mall must be the highest form of the art,
and Daniel Brush must be a hack, (I love his work, so maybe
there’s something more wrong with me than is already obvious).
According to our present President, and to most of the free
world, Mac Donald’s Rules, and why on earth would anyone want
to eat truffled foie gras, in a pinot noir reduction sauce, or a
filet mignon stuffed with oysters?(at Christian’s in New
Orleans…yum…). What I’m trying to say, is that there is no
gauge. Each person finds beauty based on their own life
experiences, and their understanding of those experiences. I
think that the broader your base of knowledge is, the more
accepting you tend to be of aesthetics that you don’t immediately
comprehend, or necessarily wish to embrace. Culture, education,
nationality and personal history all play equal parts in one’s
perception of , “beauty”:

Beau.ty (byoo’tee), n., The quality present in a thing or
person that gives intense pleasure, or deep satisfaction to the
mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations,(as in shape
color, sound, etc), a meaningful design or pattern, or something
else (as a personal quality in which high spiritual qualities
are manefest).

Sub.ject.ive (sab jek’ tiv), adj Philos. relating to or of the
nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a
thing in itself.

Beauty and aesthetics are personal and individual, not
universal. The validity of aesthetic works should not be suspect,
merely because one or the other of us takes exception to them,
based on our own personal taste or experience, or lack thereof.
Certainly, there is room for everyone’s vision of aesthetic
beauty isn’t there? Weeellll…ok…even I might balk at the
night-light version of Albrecht Durer’s, “Praying Hands”, or one
more CZ, stung on a piece of fishline, and sold as a necklace,
even if I do admire the marketing success…but other than
that… :slight_smile: Good luck in your search for a clear cut aesthetic
paradigm Virginia. I still can’t figure out how the heck you’re
going to find it.

Lisa, ( Happy Summer Solstice everyone…half of the year over already), Topanga,

I certainly agree with the bit about taste being acquired. To
me the interesting thing is that all people do have the capacity
to find things beautiful, which capacity must be genetic.

On the other hand, anthropologists have found what they call
"but slicks" on mountains, where for as many years as our species
has existed, and perhaps longer, our ancestors would sit to enjoy
the view, and perhaps the sunset. A nice sunset is something
that transcends culture. It might have something to do with our
being a diurnal species (most of us, anyway!) so we’re somewhat
phototropic. We are attracted to light, and therefore to color.
So if there is anything universal in our taste, it’s probably
our love of color and views. W

That’s about a half a cents worth! :slight_smile:

I disagree George. I think it is possible to know why I respond
to certain works of art–be it jewelry, painting, or music. I
certainly know why I respond to Mozart opera differently than I
respond to rap music. (Not a fair comparison, I know). Don’t you
think that your emotional response to art has something to do
with what you ultimately value? True what we value is shaped by
our education and what we have been exposed to. Also our ability
to be open to seeing new things or old things in a new ways.

Let me give you an example. I happen to like lapidary rather a
lot. There are some peple who are just absolutely in love with
agates. They collect agates. Their garages are stocked to
rafters with boxes and boxes of agates. Now do you think that
you would ever live to see the day when you would walk into
tiffany’s and see a case full of agates? I laugh just thinking
about it!

So what does this tell us? Well the Stuff in Tiffny’s is very
"safe." If someone buys a 1 caret ruby ring encircled with a
dozen or so 20-point diamonds, he or she will pay a pretty
penny, and be able to say that it came from Tiffany’s. The
stones will be quality stones for sure. But is it art? What is
valued here? Is being safe and never having to fear that someone
will think we have poor taste – is that what is values. Is
wearing something from a prestige name valued?

Whereas if someones buys a very unusual necklace of
agates–really attractive agates with lovely plumes, maybe set
in lowly silver-- but a silver design that is especially crafted
to emphasize the natural plumes in the agate. What is it? Is it
art? What is valued here? Is it the natural beauty of the plume
agates? how the artist set them in silver to purposely draw the
eye to the plumes? Do we value that the artist found something
beautiful in nature – a lowly agate – and has expanded our
appreciation of rocks?

BTW: Certain types of plume agate are a lot more rare than
diamonds. And no–I’m not a collector or agates, but I know
people who are.



Hi Virginia.

I’m not sure we do disagree. Yes, I’m sure you can determine
what “you” consider art or what you like about a certain art
form but will you ever know why you like it? Yes, the reason
someone purchases an art object over another is an emotional
one. But saying that doesn’t get us any where. It’s like the dog
chasing it’s tail. Maybe the question is why do you want to
know. Is it a personnel thing, philosophical, or are you trying
to determine what motivates people to purchase one piece of art
over another. If it is the later it might be more beneficial to
find ways of making your art object appeal to their emotions.
Remember “Diamonds are forever.” Hmm, have I reversed the
problem and now the tail is chasing the dog?

George Hebner

Dear George and Virginia, et al, Perhaps it may be of interest
that Professor V.S. Ranachandran, a neuropsychologist at UCSD in
La Jolla, CA is currently publishing interesting materials in
scientific journals announcing findings of on going
investigations about individual response perceptions to works of
art. More than a study in cognitive visual response, it seems the
theories say that there soon may be a measurable way to consider
the effects of art works on individuals that can be observable in
brain responses. And I always thought that aesthetics is the
purest form of studying philosophy of art, literature and music.
Maybe as John Muir wrote: “everything is interconnected” after
all. Thanks to all Orchidians for the wealth of material so
generously given. Ellie