John Boylan’s Next Conversation: Beauty

Event Date: Tuesday, October 14, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

This time we’re looking at beauty, how it is constructed, and how redefinitions of that construction can be liberating and empowering.

Read on for the details.

The Guests (see bios below)

Kirin Bhatti

Meng Yu

Another visual artist, in the works

An aesthetician or a critic, in the works

The Story

We live in a culture where the pressure toward a narrow standard of beauty is nearly overwhelming. That conservative, conventional, constraining sense of what is beautiful is everywhere, in mass media, in our often unspoken sense of landscape and architecture, in the conventions of fashion, in the simple aesthetics that drive our everyday assumptions.

Body shapes are constrained within a norm, especially for women, while symmetry and confident grace in movement are basic metrics for success. In the popular images, even supposed ugliness is depicted as conventionally pretty, especially in content for children. One of countless examples is Beauty and the Beast. The whole point of the original story is that Beast is hideous, an outcast in love with Belle, the Beauty. But the Disney Beast is drawn as a handsome, if hairy, avuncular figure. Even in the classic 1980s television version, one of George R. R. Martin’s early projects, the Beast is a young Ron Perlman in gorgeous lion makeup. Do we have the capacity to see a conventionally hideous figure as sympathetic, beautiful, and even romantic?

Certainly, some sense of normative beauty is physiological: sounds that are more harmonious than others, colors and shapes that are naturally more pleasing. But most of what we encounter is more complex than that, and much of what we take from that complexity is constructed as part of the culture that surrounds us.

This month’s topic comes in part out of conversations with two of the guests, Kirin Bhatti and Meng Yu. Both combine a passion for social justice with a love of style, and both are moving forward on the idea that individual style can be a tool for individual empowerment. At the root of that movement is the idea that we as a society can redefine conventional, mainstream ideas of what is beautiful, even while the immersive miasma of mass media drives us to not do so.

Art does a lot toward stretching and twisting a sense of what is beautiful, and has been doing so at least since the birth of modernism, and in some cases long before that, as in Brueghel’s Triumph of Death and Goya’s Caprichos and Disasters of War. And the story of the outcast who is deemed as less than beautiful has long been a fundamental narrative; Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac comes to mind. Art can hew to convention as much as mass media, but it can also strive to force us to engage in something that is conventionally unattractive, to the point where we end up wanting to make an engagement. But can art have a mass effect in a broad-based reconsideration of beauty?

Come and have a conversation about beauty and about the potential of that engagement. I’ve been away, and I’m a little behind the curve in getting the guests together. I’m hoping to add a visual artist and an expert on aesthetics, or possibly a critic. Stay tuned.

The Guests in Detail

MissTANGQ (Meng Yu) is a multi-media synesthetic artist and first-generation mystic-nerd. She is deeply inspired by the hyphenated experience and explores this through visual art, installation, fashion and DJing to create cross-sensory and multi-disciplinary work. She is a traveler in the margins and crossroads of both identity and the terrestrial and astral experience. She believes in the fertile power of these places to remix our perceptions of and connection to the world. As a facilitator and educator she spent the last 5 years working as the Director of Youth Engagement of an arts-based food justice youth organization. She now continues to do empowerment work as a image consultant through her styling company QYRON. She loves to sing on her bike and plot what she’s going to eat next. Dancing is one of her favorite forms of space travel.

Kirin Bhatti writes: I like to have fun while doing good and looking good at the same time. Growing up in a big Punjabi family I had to be loud, experimental, and creative to get anything done—or maybe that’s just me? Whether it’s nature or nurture that made me who I am, I am addicted to making the impossible possible, all while having a great time—especially for the underdog. I spent seven years in education with the task of creating innovative programs that raise children into whole beings. I also learned how to farm for a whole year. Growing a one-pound heirloom tomato from a near weightless seed teaches you a lot about how to make things happen. My mission now is to use my business QYRON styling to help people feel really awesome about themselves inside and out. I have a blast with my other company Purna Playground helping socially conscious ideas stand out through creative marketing and strategy. All this action is made possible by ample time hanging out alone in my studio daydreaming, being lazy, and having epic hangouts with my dear friends and family. Whatever I’m doing it’s all the same to me, different iterations of myself serving the same goal—to be of service making the impossible possible.

Coming Up

Tuesday, November 18: Film

Tuesday, December 16: Startup Culture


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