Beauty, as ritual and symbol, are as necessary to human beings as air and water. The recognition of beauty marks us as human, and gives us identity. And that is why the inquiry into the makeup of beauty, and its constituents, becomes influential. Is beauty an illusion; is it a mere commodity? Is it only a credit card receipt away? Or is it something more ethereal? Is it substantial or insubstantial? Is it purely and only physical; is it spiritual? In other words, are the Thomists right, or should the Manicheans take precedence? What is beauty? And how does it impact us as individuals? As members of a society? How does it impact and influence our culture? Or does our culture influence our opinion of beauty? And of course, all these interrogatives are pertinent and important; yet the most salient question is this: how, what, when and where is beauty? In other words, what is the epistemology of beauty?
Thus as part of an inquiry into beauty, PE.com will exhibit works of prison art. Although produced by prisoners or ex-prisoners, from one perspective, the designation ‘prison art’ is moot. For in the end, art is art. Whether it was created by a prisoner or a student or a farmer makes no difference. However, from another perspective, the term ‘prison art’ speaks volumes. For according to some, prisoners and/or ‘criminals’ are devoid of any sense of aesthetics. Of course, this viewpoint is wrong. The recognition and admiration of beauty is universal.
THE ART OF SHAWN JONES