Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Exquisite Form, Revolutionary Function: You Are Beautiful at Galerie F

You Are Beautiful Sticker
The sticker that started it all.

The incredibly positive and powerful You Are Beautiful phenomenon started with just 100 stickers. Many of those were likely put up by artist Matthew Hoffman, himself. Now, ten years since, over half a million stickers cover the globe and You Are Beautiful has evolved to include public murals, installations, and exhibitions including thousands of artists.

Galerie F is currently host to one such exhibition and I highly recommend stopping in. The exhibition ends November 17, so hurry.  

Hoffman's work is displayed in chapters. Each chapter features a lesson of sorts—for example, "Chapter Five: Create an impact. Do a lot with a little." Each chapter title is then elaborated on briefly—"Do something for a stranger unexpectedly, unapologetically say it's okay to be human. Be audacious and a little dangerous. Give gifts and have fun." Each chapter's lesson is translated into both a wood cut design and screen print edition. In itself, the work's aesthetic is clean and very well designed.

You Are Beautiful Chapter 1: Start anywhere as long as it's now.
Chapter 1: Start anywhere as long as it's now.

The exhibition also features a wall of single pieces by about 30 of Chicago's favorites such as Nice One, Shawnimals, and Don't Fret. The diversity in interpretation presented in uniform size and shape makes for an incredibly engaging display. It's easy to spend a lot of time with each and every piece.

You Are Beautiful, guest artist wall display.
Featured guest artists.

Prior to attending the opening, I'd seen the stickers around and thought it was a really cool idea. I'm all for injecting positive messages into the media-heavy, lack-inducing landscape that dominates much of Chicago. I reference Chicago specifically because this is my realm of experience. Considering the reach this campaign has achieved, I'm sure Chicago is not unique in it's benefit from this type of positive messaging. I digress.

The stickers work through repetition on a subliminal level. Before you know it, you don't even see them any more but you unconsciously recognize the message "you are beautiful." The impact the stickers have is gradual and like any mantra or affirmation—the more you see it, hear it, say it, think it, the more quickly it is realized. 

The exhibition compared to the sticker campaign works on a more cognitive, immediate level. Hoffman breaks down what could be called a formula for success into easy, very doable steps. "Chapter One: Start anywhere as long as it's now." This can mean so many different things to so many different people, yet it means something very specific to every individual that takes it in. Don't worry if the chapter title is a little ambiguous, Hoffman gives you a few sentences to keep you going in the right direction. Each chapter progressively fleshes out definitive action to take for whatever it is you are starting now. It seems Hoffman is cheering you on as you make your way from chapter to chapter. You'll leave excited, motivated, and knowing that you cannot be stopped.

All the good vibes that went into the making of this work are projected right onto the viewer. This exhibition brings new consideration to the concept of functional art. Not utilitarian, but very purposeful, extremely effective and supremely valuable.

Get some You Are Beautiful Stickers here.
Check out more work from the show here. Couple of my favorites below...

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