Join Date: July 2005
Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard
I was especially taken by this passage in the write-up, which gives the interview its name, Templum Veneris,
or Temple of Venus:
As Sophie departed from the runway, I surveyed the interior of the Tabernacle, with its Gothic-timbered roof and the Romanesque alcoves along either side, as well as the lofts where the pews of this deconsecrated church had once stood. That night, the edifice had once again become a place of worship, a temple of beauty. Just as the pagan shrines of Rome, such as the Pantheon, had been repackaged as Christian churches in the later years of the empire, and were now secular tourist attractions, so this edifice had experienced a reverse metaphysical transformation, from Christian to secular to Classical. Miss Sheppard’s presence had made it a veritable Templum Veneris, a Temple of Venus, for surely no one more closely embodied the goddess of beauty than this curvaceous Australian vixen.
And perhaps this was what the minimalist-loving, materialist-oriented postmodernists found so troubling about plus-size beauty, a concept that Sophie so ideally incarnated in living flesh. It was too pagan, too elemental, too much a blending of fleshy womanliness with celestial glory. Sophie exhibited a well-fed abundance that betokened a love of physical indulgence, yet simultaneously exuded a divine, transcendental loveliness, as epitomized by her dazzlingly fair complexion, her sky-blue eyes, and her radiant tresses, which shone with an angelic luminance in the runway lighting.
There is much truth in this.
In the past, particularly in the Middle Ages, beauty was subordinated to religious concerns and was viewed through the prism of Christianity. Its value was determined by the degree to which it could be made to reinforce the beliefs of the established Church.
In the present -- when politics has become the new religion for much of the populace -- beauty is once again viewed with suspicion, and the value of beauty is determined by the degree to which it can be made the support the dominant ideology. Today, beauty is subordinated to the current political religion's values (those being "diversity," "equality," etc.) just as in the past, beauty was subordinated to Christian values.
This leads to the circumscribing of beauty, the constraint and limitation of beauty.
But Classical beauty -- pagan beauty -- was beauty as pure aesthetics, beauty unconfined and unconstrained. As such, it is subversive of all latter-day moralistic ideologies, religious or political. Thus, I find it exciting to contemplate how, for the evening of Curves in Couture, the Tabernacle in Notting Hill (which was once a Christian and is now a secular edifice) escaped both belief systems and became a temple for the worship of pure beauty, beauty in itself, with Sophie as the admired goddess -- Venus in the flesh.