Art Within

I was having a conversation with a dear friend that was sparked by the fact that I posted my no-makeup face on Twitter as a tribute to Eating Disorder Awareness week.  Although my friend and I have a lot in common, I could tell this struck a nerve with her and some interesting conversation ensued.  At the base of it all, we both agree – the media has glorified the outward appearance of humans to the point that we are objectified and can never live up to the standards of superficial beauty that is pummeled at us by the media everywhere we look.  Let me say right here that this post was originally related to the BareFaced and Beautiful Campaign.

My bare face

  But I have thought long and hard about it, and this is not a post about eating disorders. I know that, when it comes to eating disorders, just having issues about physical appearance is not the culprit.  This is an easy thing to be able to control – the food you eat and the way you look.  I know what eating disorders can do, and throughout this discussion with my friend I’ve read articles that highlight the mainstream myths on ED and beauty and the media.  Whether it’s a clean face tagged in the Barefaced and Beautiful campaign or it’s a Victoria’s Secret ad, what self-talk you choose is up to you.  Looking back, however, throwing up my bare face on this viral campaign was something I didn’t put a lot of thought into.  Wow…I have thought about it now, and this is not the voice for ED.  If you are struggling or have struggled with ED, watch this.  This blog post is not for you – seek help because you can move beyond this – control is a scary thing, because, no matter how much we think we have it, there will always be things we can’t control.  Your health and wellness doesn’t just affect you – remember how many people love you on this earth and know that you have a purpose.  You are important and no one can replace you.  So let me now talk to the people who aren’t struggling with ED – the ones who had put up their bare face thinking they were helping a cause by having nerve to show their flaws.  Let this post be for all of us who have negative self-talk and question what “beautiful” means.  This is my viewpoint.

Beauty comes from within.  I don’t want to feed into the propaganda of outward appearance being so important or a definition of one’s core.  It sickens me to see kids trying to look sexy before they even understand the impact of what sex really is all about.  I hate that young girls beg for makeup and obsess over their looks when they should be innocent and carefree.  I make it a point to talk to my girls about how beauty comes from the inside – from their hearts.

Beauty comes from authenticity.  It’s from knowing who you are and being true to the good that is within you.  It’s showing empathy and compassion for others, smiling and letting the light and peace in you seep out and reach everyone you come in contact with.  It’s in self-confidence, self-love, and self-respect.  It’s in having an open mind to readily hear viewpoints other than your own, to respect others, and to still have the peace in knowing what your heart believes in the moment…but willing to grow and learn throughout life.  Beauty comes from within.
Beauty can also be seen from the outside…but know that is never all there is.  I’m a lover of art – seeing beauty in the surface as well as in the depth.  I love the dimensions in a work of art and seeing a gorgeous flower – seeing the beauty in the actual flower while understanding the complexity of growth for it to really bloom.  That first thing that catches our eye is the outward appearance – of art on paper, in nature, and in humanity.  This is why a campaign highlighting “bare-faced beauties” goes viral.  We are a visual species.  Pinterest is huge because it gives us that short-attention-span visual to see exactly what we want to see.  It’s all around us.  I think a bare-face campaign would be great for making a stand for unedited photography and highlighting the natural – in all of nature, humankind included.
My girls are artists and they show it off with every article of clothing they choose to wear. It doesn't define them - it's their way of having fun.

My girls are artists and they show it off with
every article of clothing they choose to wear. It doesn’t
define them – it’s their way of having fun.

I think the point is to highlight art – to highlight the fact that beauty doesn’t stop at the surface.  Everyone has their demons, and a negative body image is something that plagues more than just people with ED – it can affect every one of us.  We’re scared to show off our “best art” – us in the raw.  We are terrified for people to see authenticity.  We may have a rocky past, a physical disability, a mental illness, be a victim of something horrible, or simply circumstance.  We are all scared to show the core.  The image on the outside is a reflection of what lies deeper, and for some, that is a wounded area they are not ready/able to show.  The surface, and even the distorted view of body image is not what this is about – we are deeper beings than that.  What is at our core is extremely vulnerable and precious to us, good or bad.

Ideally, the point of a campaign is to create awareness and to open the door for people to talk about it.  For some women, posting a picture of their naked face – with no correction; simply raw – that was a leap.  This is to show the beauty of women, and ultimately, the beauty of everyone. For this, I appreciate it.  For the cause it was created for, I don’t think it did the good it intended.
We are not our body image.  We are not simply what is on the outside.  But we are people that show our skin – and our bodies are our artwork.  The image of them is what we want to overcome and create into a beautiful thing.  For every person who steps up and says “I am beautiful, authentically me”, my hope is it is an encouragement to someone else to do the same.  It’s not a blasé move to diminish the very real and frustrating feelings many may have on their self-image.  It’s a move to say – “hey, you and I both may struggle with things.  And what you see on the outside isn’t all there is of me.  There’s so much more.  If I show you the real outside – free from decoration, this is a step to me doing the same from the inside – the real me, free from the walls I put up and the pain that I’ve felt.”
The exterior is the first visual art we see – it tells us something about the person, and it reflects what is behind the eyes, not just the made up face.  It’s scary and we can try to tweak it more and more to become what we think is “beautiful”.  We are not a blind society any more than we are a colorblind society.  We can’t deny what is there – and the way we look is always present.

This is about fifteen layers of paint. It went through
many transformations to become what you see!

But what if we had a shift in our focus?  What if “bare-faced beauties” was all there was?  What if “supermodels” were real women, unaltered by computers, lighting and makeup, and truly, authentically, real? What if we looked at beauty in the imperfections and in the reality…and we found the amazing art in the depth of each human being?   What if photojournalism and National Geographic was what we saw everywhere instead of Hollywood glam?  That the definition of “beautiful” is in the story and the soul behind the face – the face simply portrays the depth of the humanity underneath?It’s a Utopian ideal.  It doesn’t “cure” eating disorders or baggage in your life.  Attacking media by covering it all up doesn’t, either.  Art is an expression for each and every one of us.  It’s all around us.  We can’t help but want to express it – in our clothes, in our work, in our appearance, in photos, in paintings, in sculptures…

If we can grasp the point of art – the depth of telling a story and looking beyond the image to the creation underneath – maybe we can then see people in their truest beauty.  Maybe we can help those who are hurting to find their own art – reflected on paper for a while as they gain confidence in their own beauty and self-worth.  An outward reflection of art is easier, but eventually, we each face our own realities, and we each face our own beautiful artwork – on the outside and the inside.  What is yours saying?


About Mama Rose

Insanely optimistic dreamer and implementer, gung ho to take life by the horns and learn from it! (Also fond of all things crafty or creative).
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2 Responses to Art Within

  1. Jared Angaza says:

    Great post sister! Very well said. You have always been a natural beauty, inside and out. And your family is a reflection of that.

    Beauty has so many layers, and people often overlook the most meaningful aspects of it. I love that you refer to beauty as a story. I agree wholeheartedly (and am likely to totally snake that concept from you and use it for my own at some point).

    Great stuff! And beautiful painting! I love it.

  2. Ashley, what powerful words. As one who spent too many years believing the lie that a ‘perfect’ exterior facade was the only identity of any value, I can so agree with what you’ve shared…’from the trenches’ so-to-speak.

    And this really cuts to the core of the issue:
    “We are terrified for people to see authenticity. We may have a rocky past, a physical disability, a mental illness, be a victim of something horrible, or simply circumstance. We are all scared to show the core.”

    Healing has come as I’ve learned to be vulnerably authentic – not just with venturing out bare-faced as I so often do these days – but with honestly sharing the struggles & weaknesses I face. Deep friendships, intimate relationships, true human connection can only happen in the presence of authentic, honest vulnerability. In this place of vulnerability I’ve found whole-hearted love & approval, honesty that breeds growth, and acceptance of the truth of who I am & where I’ve been, flaws & hurts & failures all mixed up with the joy & beauty & success.

    I couldn’t agree more: beauty comes from within. And would add to that –
    true inner beauty can only grow in the presence of authentic vulnerability.

    Shine on, beautiful girl!!

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