By Elham Azimi
When I first sat down to write about beauty for Odd Magazine, I thought it would come quite easily to me. As an artist and designer, I connect with the beauty of our world – our humanity, its light and dark – every day. It is my way of communicating with the world. But putting that expression to paper was difficult – I tried to focus, I even meditated, and still it was hard to express. I found it brought up some deep truths about myself that I think are symptoms of a bigger experience we’re all having with beauty – perhaps some of it resonates with you, too.
From childhood, as I feel many other girls and women, I was taught the importance of being perceived to be physically beautiful. Inextricably, I learnt that this beauty was, somehow, bound up with my worth. So, the personal judgement began: I worried I was “lesser” than others around me I saw to be more beautiful. My skin wasn’t as bright as the other girls around me; my strict religious upbringing forbade the personal expression that others my age were able to participate in – I was outside looking in.
I recognise now that the deep pain this difference left me with had led me to artistic creation. The space of creating something beautiful allows me to feel more connected with myself, and to explore the depth of what beauty means. When I was learning how to design, I saw what I hadn’t seen before. In the craft of fashion design – learning how to work with the fabric, how to cut, sew, finish each piece, and the dual importance that my art be both beautiful and wearable – there was a lesson.
Like personal beauty, there is so much that is under the surface in art – in a finished piece you cannot see every stitch, every hour spent, every thread of fabric. The piece would not be what it is without all of these individual elements. As such, each piece I create is different, depending on the exact uniqueness of each step of the design process. Our beauty is individual, and to expect us all to conform to one ideal is impossible! We are all made of different stitches, different fabrics. That is our power, and our beauty.
In a 2015 collection of mine, I developed an intricate dress that held a contrast between modesty and sensuality. The piece involved a deep understanding of the fabric and how the cut would sit on my model, as well as patience and delicacy in creating ornate details. A headpiece accompanied the dress exploring ideas of Hijab and femininity. Yet, the dress only found its full artistic expression in the act of being worn.
The model we chose embodied perfectly the duality of female identity, and her energy brought my art to its full realisation. Beauty and art are, always, bound in interaction. To explore their depths and juxtapositions is to find the beauty of their uniqueness. We can choose to honour our beauty in the same way we honour our art and welcome it for all we decide it can be.
As an adult woman, I have been gifted the perspective and intellect I didn’t have as a child. I can see the wider landscape we live in, and that the expectations of others can never quantify our beauty. Our beauty is more than our appearance – our beauty is all that we are, our choice of expression, the energy we carry. We can choose to participate in creating the beauty we want to see every day – through our actions, our heart, our energy, our creative spirit. This is the beauty that ignites me as an artist.
For me, to create art is my expression of truth, and the pieces I create would not be what they are, as beautiful as they are, without the very individual energy that goes into them. We all have the power to choose what beauty means to us and how we express that for ourselves. True beauty is not in an outward appearance, but in the energy and action of oneself.
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