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Emily Urban

Beauty of the Body


Why is it that we find certain bodies so beautiful? The way we evaluate and experience the aesthetics of bodies today is the result of a complex web of biological and social factors, stemming from the beginning of evolution. The way sexual and natural selection regulated reproduction has led to an apparent universality in the way people judge certain physical traits. Despite this “hardwiring,” a global examination of art and culture over time reveals that beauty is highly malleable, as it is apparent that the formal and ideological qualities of figurative artwork shift often. Furthermore, the communicative power of figurative imagery exists in not only art, but the media as well. The way bodies are portrayed in television, film, news coverage and social media contributes to current paradigms of beauty and amplifies the conventions that already exist. Is it therefore possible to change the way we perceive bodies? By understanding these histories and processes, and by enacting the strategies I have proposed, perhaps we could modify the way we view bodies and think about beauty in a way that is not so stable and absolute.




Anjan Chatterjee (MED)

Michael Leja (ARTH)