Last Saturday, I drove about 60 km, partly along a dark country road to attend a friend’s wedding dinner in a small town. I have known the groom for about 6 years now. He does not come from a privileged background but he has a strong passion for working with nature and an incredibly strong work ethic, which has caused him to progress quickly in his career and also won him much respect amongst the community and his workmates. In fact, those of us who know of his long hours, often working 7 day weeks, frequently forfeiting his leave and on top of that attending night school, are relieved that he has finally taken some time to listen to his heart-strings. Where did this workaholic meet his bride, you ask? At work of course!
But they both took some time off to plan their nuptials and to honeymoon in Bali and won’t worry about work till next month. Good for them.
Anyway, it was a big Hindu wedding. There was a temple ceremony earlier followed by the dinner at night in a large community hall. This is a small close knit community and the groom is well known and the bride is the daughter of a well established local potter, so just about everyone was there.
Now, suffice to say that a great time was had by all, although the loud music blasted at the front tables probably has caused some permanent damage to our hearing. There was lots of jumping and dancing going on ranging from traditional Punjabi folk dances to the latest Bollywood numbers. I video-taped the Bhangra dance which is a lively and energetic dance by the Punjabi community but the video really was poor quality and does not do the dance justice. So, for your benefit, I purloined a rather good video from You Tube. Hope you enjoy it.
Of course, there was also a lot of delicious Indian food. Let’s see. There was Briyiani rice, acar (spicy vegetable pickle with peanuts), dhall (chickpea curry), dry mutton curry, Chicken fried with chili amongst others. But before we could eat, there was a lot of ceremonial feeding. In a Hindu wedding, kissing the bride is not as important as feeding the bride….and feeding the groom ……and the bride feeding the groom ……and the groom feeding the bride. Yup. A whole lot of jumping and feeding going on.
I know close to nothing about art but I do know what I like. Then again, squirrels are natural nut-pickers which is barely different to being nit-pickers. Hence we are quite qualified to be critics. On such flimsy reasoning, I shall apply my superior rodent-sized brain to being an art critic, philosopher, and sociologist while incidentally finding the cure for cancer and solving the Grand Unified theory.
My topic today is beauty as portrayed in art. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, the Squirrel observes that for most of history, man has considered fat to be beautiful. Don’t believe it? Let’s take a short trip though the history of art.
Exhibit Number One is the Venus of Willendorf which is the vision of feminine beauty as crafted by some Paleolithic caveman from about 20,000 years ago.
Venus – Man’s Image of Feminine Beauty (circa 20,000 BC)
For Exhibit Two, the Squirrel presents to you representative art from the Baroque Period around the 16th Century by Peter Paul Rubens. A Rubens woman, according to the art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, is “plump and pearly,” while to Richard Klein, author of “Eat Fat,” she is a “luscious fat girl” who stands for “the whole weight and wealth of human nature.”
This image of beauty is still very much alive and kicking all the way up to the early 20th century. Exhibit Three is the work of Renoir. Georges Riviere contends that Renoir was very particular about his women and that he liked them fat with small noses, wide mouths, thick lips, and small teeth.
This art critic Squirrel contends that it is only in these last few generations that the image of beauty has changed to what we see today as demonstrated below….
Now why is it that for most of human history, fat was beautiful? Well, the Squirrel has a theory. For most of history, man was never sure when the next meal was coming. Paleolithic man was only just learning to farm and hunt. They were also trying to collect nut and berries but let’s face it ….they were out-competed by better evolved mammals like squirrels. Hence, their view of beauty, their ultimate Venus was a well-fed and rounded woman.
Life remains tough for artists as history progressed. The grand masters of the Baroque period were very dependent on patrons and their whims and fancies to survive. Sometimes they ate well and sometimes they didn’t. Again their image of beauty were modeled on the rich and well-fed aristocratic women that they met.
Early 20th Century was still a tough time for artists as evidenced that most artists were poor, starving and living in poverty, suffering for their art’s sake. Their pieces of work tended to be worth money only after they died (isn’t that ironic?). Once again, fat is beautiful in the eyes of a starving painter.
It is only in recent history that we have entered a period of relative abundance. Today, fast food is even more readily available than fast women and after conning the public into buying into modern art, most artists are fat themselves. Finally, fat is becoming the norm and conversely thin is finally being considered beautiful.
And what is the moral behind this rambling post? Well, the Squirrel has conclusively shown that “the way into a man’s art is through his stomach”!
Ba Da Boom!
Viewing the World Through the Observation of Squirrels