Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder

by Yuval Saar | 10.05.16


In one of the courses Noa Zilberman took as part of her M.D. program at Bezalel’s Industrial Design Department, she designed jewelry that mapped out her future wrinkles. These days, her original and unique work is showcased at the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (the national museum of design) which deals with the different expressions the term ‘beauty’ receives in the world of design. “Beauty is almost a dirty word in the world of design,” Zilberman explains. “But the cliched saying – beauty is in the eye of the beholder- is still true.”  

“The choice to make beauty the overarching theme of such a big and inclusive exhibition is a bold and provocative one because it openly states what kind of priorities a true designer should have,” Zilberman elaborates. “Maybe this doesn’t come up in the inner dialogue designers or design schools have, but in the real world it’s the consumers who decide, and in recent years they have been amassing rapidly. Additionally, designers who were once only known by design fanatics are now household names, and the discussion about design as a sensory experience has become more relevant than ever.”

Zilberman, a graduate of Bezalel’s Department of Jewelry Design and the school’s M.D. program of Industrial Design, designs Judaica and jewelry. The work she presents in the exhibition is comprised of four jewelry pieces and one video.
She created her work as part of a course in Bezalel that dealt with the subject of self-acceptance: “In all of my years at Bezalel (and especially in the Department of Jewelry Design), never did I create something whose focus was me and where my body played such a pivotal role.

״This creation started from the jewelry, which were made to map out my future wrinkles, but were still wearable. It ended with the video that gives viewers a peek into a small intimate moment that kind of resembles that moment women have when they remove their makeup at the end of the day.”

What made you take interest in this subject to begin with?

“Honestly, I’m not really sure why I started doing this because it is so not like me to deal with things in this manner, at a personal level and at the aesthetic level of design and the consequent statements that derive from it. Maybe it’s because it was right after the birth of my first child, a period when your body image changes and questions of aesthetics become privileges that only others have (or at least that’s how I saw it then). Either way, all sorts of people reacted very strongly, and I realized that I was onto something that was relatable.”


250 works of 63 different designers present the various manners and expressions of the term ‘beauty’, in a triennial that’s taking place these days at New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum.
The exhibition is divided into seven themes- Intricate, Ethereal, Transformative, Emergent, Transgressive, Extravagant and Elemental.

Zilberman is presenting her work as part of the Transgressive theme, which includes objects that defy standard, widely accepted definitions of beauty and push to its dark and wonderful side. “I assume that my take on wrinkles as things that don’t have to be played down but should rather be taken care of and cherished rather fit their concept. I present an alternative solution to what others consider to be aesthetic flaws, whereas other works show other perspectives.”


What was your impression of the other creations and their connection to ‘beauty’? Because this is a subject that is so easy to engage with.

“It’s true that almost everything can be linked back to beauty or to its lack thereof; manipulations on beauty are the base of lots of artworks and creations. Design, on the contrary, doesn’t necessarily treat beauty is a subject that stands on its own, and that’s what was so nice about this exhibition. As a designer who makes products that are intended to be sold, the beauty of a product is as important as its usability and its pricing, which has the most influence on what the final product will look like.
Beauty is a seemingly trivial subject, but dealing with it is not at all a thing of course in the contemporary design field. Firstly, beauty doesn’t count as the product’s ultimate goal, it can be an additional outcome. Traditionally, good design comes from a functional angle, or in our day and age designers think of the customer or end user experience. Beauty, as an aesthetic and emotional experience, is not considered at all. Secondly, beauty is such a subjective thing. It has been and always will be in the eyes of the beholder.”

Translated from Hebrew by: Joy Bernard




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