“If you have only two pennies, spend the first on bread and the other on hyacinths for your soul.” –Arab Proverb
In this chapter we will study the effects of visual culture on how families function in the United States.
You may wonder about the inclusion of art and beauty in a text that discusses the needs of families. But it can be argued that American individuals and families need art both as individuals and as a civilization. In addition,how society defines art and what is considered to be “beautiful” is relevant to equity and family outcomes.
Visual culture is described as the combination of visual events in which “information, meaning, or pleasure” are communicated to the consumer.
The information that we take in through our eyes is both immense and psychologically powerful, affecting us in ways that take time and cognition to understand. It is the intent of this chapter to highlight the ways in which visual culture affects families, both in the way we view ourselves, and in the ways we can access resources such as education, employment, and wealth.
Art is one way in which people share ideas, express themselves, and communicate. Consider the painting or print hanging in your doctor’s office. What about the graffiti you passed on the way to the bus stop? Artistic expression exemplifies the richness of a culture and energizes our thought processes. We are exposed to art, design and creativity all day long, whether we realize it or not.
How and where an individual is able to access art is largely related to the values and beliefs a culture holds as a standard for determining what is desirable in a society, both by artistic and by beauty standards. Individuals have
specific, individualized beliefs, but can still share collective values. An example is the quote, “You can’t be too rich or too thin”. An underlying value that engenders this quote would be that being wealthy and being thin are good and desirable.
Values shape how a society views what is ‘beautiful’ and what kinds of art are valued. In Beauty is a concept that is flexible and contains contextual significance depending on where you live and the time of where you are living. A family’s access to art that speaks to their culture, interests, and imagination depends on what is available in the popular media and accessible in their geographic region. In Western Culture, art was historically housed in museums. In Indiginous cultures, art often takes the form of useful objects, such as baskets and clothing.
Today art and other imagery are easily accessible in digitized forms of technology, which are accessed through