You’ve probably heard it said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, no one can tell you what is beautiful or not beautiful about a work of art. In fact, “beauty,” as it applies to art, encompasses more than just the idea of being aesthetically pleasing. The beauty of an artwork depends on the emotions it evokes in the viewer—and an artist can evoke emotions through form, color, shape, line, texture, composition, etc. You might be attracted to an artwork for its symmetry or its shapes, for instance, or you might be attracted to it for its color or juxtaposition of colors. You might also be attracted to it for its meaning or message—a meaning or message you understood because the artist expressed it visually in a powerful way.
Jim Hodges makes use of ordinary materials, such as flowers, to create artwork. In Every Touch, he used thousands of artificial flowers, and some say the work evokes a strong sense of love and loss. It speaks to the many people who touched the work and brought it into being. People in many cultures have been conditioned to believe that flowers are beautiful, but the power of Hodges's work rests largely on the feelings it evokes. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica makes a powerful political statement. It portrays the horrors of war, but moreover it evokes strong feelings about the war through its juxtaposition of color and form. In discussing these two works, think about how they make you feel when you look at them. View them not as works of art but as forms of expression. Sometimes reading about them can help you gain a better understanding of what they meant to the artist. But what really matters is what they mean to you. Beauty, in an artwork, is what evokes emotion and touches the soul.