When I was a kid I used to pore through my mother’s art books she’d bought for the one term she’d spent as a fine art student at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University. On the bookshelf behind the end table next to the chair lived a red cloth-bound art-history volume that had black-and-white reproductions of great works of art throughout Western European civilization. Because at this time, African and Native American and “oriental” art didn’t count.
Of all the photos I pored over—even more than Michelangelo’s David (which I’m not sure was represented in its entirety, I think they must have cropped the photo at the waist, the way the network cropped Elvis on Ed Sullivan) I think I most closely studied the Venus de Milo.
At 10 or 11 I didn’t understand what I was seeing. I didn’t understand that all cultures formulate their ideas of beauty. I didn’t even half-comprehend the irony that as I was studying this photo, my own culture was coming up with these images of sexual beauty:
And then Karen Carpenter starved herself to death, and the first stories about anorexia started appearing in the Time Magazines that used to come to the house.
I found this amazing shot of the Venus de Milo today: …
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