If money is the dark god of the High WASP, good taste is the priestess performing temple rites. High WASPs love to talk about good taste. What is in good taste, what is not. If we had rosary beads each bead would be some instance of the correct aesthetic. (And the scary thing is, out of all this High WASP stuff, the taste piece is the one thing that I can’t give up no matter how strictly I speak to myself. I can understand that other people have the right to their ideas about aesthetics, but I can’t give up the idea that they are wrong. Just wrong.)
I also realize that the attitude towards aesthetics is going to be hard to explain. Maybe because it’s subtle and sophisticated. Or maybe because it’s really a matter of personal taste gussied up in words like classic, or robust, or authentic, or anti-sentimental, or ironic.
Let’s start with a simple case, one where’s there’s no question. Let’s say, art, for the time being. What is in good taste, in our opinion? (Here I’m guessing we are not alone…) Unequivocally, medieval Italian triptychs, Brueghel the Young and Elder, and David Hockney.
What’s not in good taste? What’s not in fact art, but masquerades as such? Unequivocally?
Why? Are the paintings of roses and the statue of the loving husband and wife ugly? Do they represent a society that we resent? Is that why they are not art? Is it because you can buy them without hiring a world class thief or attending an invitation-only Sotheby’s auction? No. It’s a question of emotion. High WASPs think art should represent, not assume. And by represent, I don’t mean the art itself has to represent a thing. Only a vision. The artist paints or prints or carves or casts or installs what they want us to see; it’s up to each of us seeing to have our own set of feelings. We don’t want to be told via the colors and affects of sentiment what we feel about roses. Or even what we feel about lovers. High WASPs are unsure that we want to have feelings at all.
The feeling of shock and awe in the face of beauty, or an absolute audacious concept, however, that we are willing to feel.