"Beauty is Only Skin Deep" as The Temptations sing, but a billboard can stop traffic and a magazine cover on a newsstand can be perused so frequently that it begins to look prematurely aged. Kate Upton is gracing the "Swimsuit" issue of Sport Illustrated for the second year in a row. But what is it that is so eye-catching about her? Beauty is a reflection of sensibility. Of course at the furthest extreme is the famous Twilight Zone episode, "Eye of the Beholder," in which a desperately deformed woman is operated on. The shocker comes when we look up at the faces of the medical team who inform her that the operation has failed. Beauty is also ephemeral. Take a look at the autopsy shot of Marilyn Monroe. Great beauty caught in its prime is like a rose blossoming in spring. It's ineffable and magnetic and yet when it dies, when the flower fades, one wonders if the beauty were simply an illusion. Was it, in fact, only skin-deep, epidermis and morphology, or was there some inner spirit that shone from underneath, something incandescent? We welcome beauty, just as we shun ugliness, yet we know nothing about it. We don't know Kate Upton from Adam or Eve as it were, and yet she is the welcome guest in our imaginations. Not in everyone's imagination. If beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, aren't we, in one sense, simply talking about the segment of the population that thumbs those worn covers of Sports Illustrated? On the other hand there is the kind of immortal beauty Keats was talking about in "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Of course, his example was crockery.
This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.