Aesthetic Arrest

I love this term—’Aesthetic Arrest.' It best describes the feeling we have when in the presence of a work of art, or any object of beauty, that has that ‘wow’ quality, that stops us in our tracks. We feel somehow altered by the encounter, taken outside of ourselves, elevated somehow. Robert Rye best expresses it here: “The contemplative instant at which (an artwork) is appreciated by the mind, which has been arrested by its wholeness, and fascinated by its harmony, is the luminous, silent stasis of aesthetic pleasure.”

I’ve always pondered what, if any, is the mysterious ‘recipe’ for creating work that resonates in this way. It’s a bit of an elusive thing, very much the result of letting go and really leaning in to the process of making art. Intention is just the jumping off point. ‘Rules’ tend to get in the way. Yet there are some aspects that ‘arresting’ works share. Sir Thomas Aquinas does a pretty good job of getting close with these suggested attributes for beauty: WHOLENESS (integritas)—the unity of the whole, HARMONY (consonantia)—balance, fitness, symmetry, rhythm of structure, and RADIANCE (quidditas)—’thingness’—a unique product of your thinking. I like this framework because it doesn’t imply rules, rather useful criteria that can be applied to any creation, visual or otherwise—anything in existence, whether man, woman or nature made. It speaks to the soul of a thing; it allows for the inexplicable….yet gives us a standard to aspire to.

When was the last time you were arrested?

elizabeth watt

Elizabeth has been recognized as one of the industry’s top still life and food photographers for over 20 years. She studied photography at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With an extensive technical background, Elizabeth draws her inspiration from painting, collage, sculpture and nature.  Her commercial work has a distinctly artistic focus. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines such as Food & Wine, Gourmet, Bon Appetite, Martha Stewart Living, Body and Soul, Town and Country, O Magazine, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. Her commercial clients have included Campbell’s, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Pepperidge Farms, Kraft,  General Mills,  Bath and Bodyworks, American Express, Neiman Marcus and Rosewood Resorts. She has many award winning book covers to her credit, and countless cookbooks, and has been featured in both Graphis and Communication Arts Magazines.

 

Elizabeth also enjoys teaching Photography and Creative Process both in academia and the corporate world. She has been an adjunct professor of photography at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and a guest lecturer at The School of Visual Arts and Parsons in NYC, as well as running workshops and seminars at various locations around the country.

 

Elizabeth blogs on the subjects of creativity, seeing, and photography at www.create-shift.com/blog. After completing an executive coaching certificate through NYU's School of Leadership and Human Capital Management, Elizabeth also helps people shift their mindsets and create habits to support creative output. More of this work can be seen at www.create-shift.com.

In addition to photography, Elizabeth is currently working on a book on how to leverage the creative mindset in the service of everyday productivity. She currently lives in San Miguel de Allende