A tower sits on a hill, its roof a penciled outline against the weathered canvas sky. Sienna-hued houses zigzag, peeking in between muted green trees. Patches of yellowing canvas and squiggly pencil marks blend in harmony with the pastel landscape.
This is Paul Cézanne’s The Village of Gardanne.
Cézanne’s intentionally unfinished landscape paintings don’t have the meticulous, polished, and faultless feel to fit into my definition of perfect. Regardless, I remain captivated by their soft-spoken beauty. The uncovered patches of canvas and scribbled sketches bring out the human touch — beautiful yet crude, grounding the painting away from the universe of surreal perfectionism.
Beauty is in imperfect humanness. How boring would it be if everything and everyone was a copy of my ideal perfect? I wouldn’t have been so captivated by The Village of Gardanne if Cézanne had hidden his pencil marks and coloured in every inch of white. Unique artistic choices make me appreciate the beauty that imperfections can bring to the world.
But when I look at my reflection in the mirror, I suddenly become so critical of these “imperfections.”
When I was younger, I never understood why the spots on my face were called beauty marks since they didn’t make me feel more beautiful, but quite the opposite.
I love the imperfect entirety of The Village of Gardanne, yet I can’t seem to apply the same sentiment to my reflection. I want to stop picking myself apart and pasting fragments into a persona that I’m only half-satisfied with. If Cézanne had painted me with all of my spots and freckles and displayed it at The Louvre, would I be more accepting that my differences are not flaws, but just kisses from God, or genetics or whatever else people want to believe in?
Why is it so difficult to look past my imperfections, and why in the mirror, can I not see my reflection in its entirety?
This article is a part of The Ubyssey's 2023 creative non-fiction supplement, beauty.