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“We are what we believe.”  –Mary Hambidge [1885-1973]

A lifelong pursuit of creativity, along with a love of dynamic symmetry and natural beauty, led Mary Hambidge to develop an artist’s community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Rabun Gap, Georgia: Located in northeastern Georgia where the Blue Ridge and Nantahala Mountain ranges meet.  Hambidge is 100 miles from Atlanta, and 80 miles from Asheville, North Carolina.

Hambidge is the oldest artists’ residency program in the Southeast, and one of the oldest in the nation, founded in 1934, to provide artists and other creative thinkers with the setting, solitude, and time necessary to create,

HAMBIDGE CENTER

Meeting House from search Courtesy of Hambidge House

Mary Crovatt became involved with Jay Hambidge (1867–1924), an artist and writer who achieved fame with his books on design and “dynamic symmetry.”  Though they never married, she took his last name.  After his death, she had envisioned a place in the Georgia mountains where crafts and agriculture could be practiced according to the principles developed by Jay.  She expanded dynamic symmetry and imagined a self-sufficient lifestyle emerging from the practice of balance and proportion.  In his memory, she created the Hambidge Center, believing that creativity can best be nurtured through working closely with nature.

In the early days of Hambidge, she employed local women to create exceptional weavings, but with the industrialization of the 1950s and the availability of steady mill jobs, the weavers slowly disbanded.  Hambidge broadened the scope of the center and invited creative artists and friends to come for extended stays there.  

One landscape architect often brought his son along with him; Eliot Wigginton returned to the Hambidge Center while a teacher in the area in 1966. Discussions with other Hambidge guests inspired him to develop the Foxfire program, in which students explored their local and regional heritage for the magazine that they created under his guidance.   

“The teacher’s approach put to action John Dewey’s progressive premise that classroom learning should be a form of democratic life in which students actively demonstrate their knowledge and skills by immediately using them to improve society.”  [in Carl Glickman, KAPPAN, Feb. 2016: p. 55]

Foxfire remains alive where it was created.  For others, “it is realistic and imperative to expect that students today can apply what they are learning in English, math, science, history, and the arts to making their communities healthier, more caring, economically viable, and aesthetically better places to live.  That would be the ultimate success for Foxfire and for our country.”  [Glickman, p. 59]

Mary Crovatt Hambidge, from native of coastal Georgia to New York model and actress, to student and creative artist and weaver, to builder and visionary to missionary for the arts, remains in spirit as a driving force at Hambidge today.

. . .

The Hambidge Center has gathered many of her writings and papers and put them together in a book Apprentice in Creation: The Way Is Beauty.

“Work is one form of worship.” 

“I’d rather be one little cog in the wheel of truth than the entire wheel in a machine of lies.”

“What the world needs today is love, not religion.  …psychological love.  Religion comes from love, not love from religion.  The world was created by love, not religion.  Religion is man made.”

“Never have the forces of the world met together with such power.  Shall it be for destruction or creation?  I believe in the divinity of man and the immortality of his soul, therefore I believe that creation will triumph.”

“All life is working towards a state of exaltation.  One does not stay in this state, but by means of it, one is led into that world of beauty where one remains.  Moments of ecstasy come when the divine inner beauty of things, of life, is overpowering.”

“One knows that everything that contributes to this life that goes on, this making of perfection, is important.  Everything we suffer, every shortcoming, every weakness we must struggle against is the result of someone who has gone before who has not conquered it.  If we abandon the fight, it is not only we who suffer but those who come after.”

“I know now that to lose one’s faith in humanity is to lose one’s faith in God.  Humanity is God.  Life only is God, and humanity is the highest expression of Life.”

© The Jay Hambidge Art Foundation Question_mark_(black_on_white)

 

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Oh, say, can you see…”

Yes, I admit, I am always on the “look” out for things “beautiful.”

“Beauty is only skin deep.” “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

Yes, as I was often told, and taught in school, me with acne-filled pores.

“Beauty,” says Thomas Aquinas, is “That which seen pleases.”  I had a more difficult time with this one saying, both in philosophy class and in my art history classes. [Aquinas…is still being interpreted.]

How do I know what beauty is? Will it be like pornography, as the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined that: “I know it when I see it” [Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964]? (Can pornography–whatever it is–be beautiful?) Therefore, seeing, looking then is pleasing.

Ah, the beauty of it all. Oh, that ‘57 Chevy, candy-apple red hardtop, so pleasing, so beautiful!

“One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” As in, “That was a beautiful garage sale.” Or, in American Pickers: “That Texaco sign is just in beautiful condition.”

TEXACO SIGNTEXACO SIGN Credit: eBay

And what about a beautiful Scotch? “Single-malt, 15-year-old: just beautiful. Look at that color!” However, what about the taste? No dispute, is there, with taste/tastes?

“Mmm, mmm good. Mmm, mmm good. Campbell’s soups are mmm, mmm good.” Andy Warhol could attest to that!

ANDY AND SOUP CANANDY AND SOUP

What do you like? Any favorites? Is it/are they “beautiful”? The kids? The small of a woman’s back (in Kevin Costner’s litany in Bull Durham)? The Mona Lisa?

But about Venus de Milo, the original, which I saw in the Louvre, not the #2 pencil, not Salvador Dali’s huge “magnificent” symbolic painting, but the original: How can it/she be “beautiful”? No arms. Measurements just not “right” [34”-31.2”-40.8”], or . . . . “Look at those hips!” Some beauty. Out of proportion. Proportion is that essential quality of beauty, says those aestheticians (those who decide what is aesthetic or “beautiful”–or “art”–and there is Thomas Aquinas, again).

VENUS DE MILOVENUS DE MILO

And something beautiful is also supposed to be good because of integrity, wholeness. It’s “bad” (even sometimes originally translated as “evil”), from any little defect. (I have always mused over “flawed” and “flawless” diamonds, even those “beautiful” three-carat, “cloudy” ones!) [Our engagement ring, 51 years ago, was a AAA, 0.39-carat, about the only affordable “way back then.” But how beautiful!]

Aesthetics: too philosophical for me.

And so, what could be beautiful?

Could be a song or musical piece (“Moon River” or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony); could be a color or something colorful (burnt sienna or a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico); could be a building (certainly nothing “Gaudi”!), like Hagia Sophia; could be a “babbling brook”; could be a Girl with a Pearl Earring, the book, the painting, the movie (how beautiful is that?!); could be that ice-cold RC Cola washing down a Moon Pie (Yum! Right beautiful!); could be all those older couples holding hands, older sisters, younger brothers; could be an emotionally charged and tear-evoking episode of Grey’s Anatomy, or a scene from Shakespeare in Love or Romeo and Juliet; could be a Serta, or Sealy Posturepedic for a beautiful night’s sleep.

Could be.

Oh, I can’t get enough. Looking for the pleasures to be found in The Beautiful.

“O Beautiful, for spacious skies…amber waves of grain…mountain majesties….”

Can you see? See? Do you see what I see? Can you find the beauty? Are you looking?

Remember: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’”–that is all…ye need to know.” –John Keats

© JAMES F. O’NEIL   4 JULY 2014

sunset over cape coralSUNSET

 

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