This blog describes why art matters. You will develop a set of tools enabling you to see the art in works of art. You will learn to see the way artists’ see. You will transform the very world you thought you were seeing every day into visual adventures. You will be equipped to do this work by learning to see.
Friday, August 24, 2012
[A] Work [of Art] is Love Made Visible
In The Prophet, Khalil
Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.”
I added more words to his for the title of this post.
In them, I
suggested we learn to see by appreciating works of art.
The key to these
adventures in perception, as Dr. Barnes called them, provides access to new
visual experiences.This allows us to
sidestep the easy path of recognition and enjoy the unfamiliar, the strange,
and the astounding.
Here is what
John Steinbeck, writing in Newsday said:
It occurs to me to ask how much I
see or am capable of seeing.
Some years ago the U.S. Information Agency paid a famous Italian
photographer to take pictures of our country.The man traveled everywhere in the United States, and do you know what
his pictures were?Italy.In the portraits, the countryside, in every
American city—his eye unconsciously looked for what was familiar to him and
found it.This man did not see the
America which is not like Italy, and there is very much that isn’t.
And so I wonder what I have missed in the trip I took down past
Beersheba and the Negev to the Red Sea.I confess I caught myself looking down at the shimmering deserts and
saying, “Yes, that’s like the Texas panhandle, that could be Death
Valley.”By identifying them with
something I knew, was I not cutting myself off from the things I did not know;
not seeing because I did not have the easy bridge of recognition.
This is a serious thing and it extends in many directions.Because we do not use quarter tones in music,
many of us do not hear them in Oriental music.How many people, seeing a painting, automatically dislike it because it
is not familiar?And, most important of
all, how many ideas do we reject without a hearing simply because our
experience pattern can bring up no recognition parallel?
involved in bypassing recognition is just that: work.Call it love, commitment, passion,
dedication: doing the hard work we do educates our vision.
Let’s look at
the painting I made in Crested Butte, Colorado, several weeks ago:
Here is a photograph of the subject I
used to make this painting:
What did I
1.I changed the format from horizontal to
2.I eliminated much of the sky, bringing
the mountain up to the top of the picture plane
3.I eliminated the crane on the right
side (truth be told, I never saw it until I looked at the photograph)
4.I eliminated a few of the roof tops on
the right side (deliberately)
5.I changed the color, light, line, and
space (never noticed I did this until I saw the photograph)
To answer this
question, I find it easier to turn the picture upside down:
What do you
see? (Remember, this is where you switch to creative seeing, not recognition)
Here is my
1.A soft, split diamond-shaped pocket of
space opens like a pita displaying small, vivid, banded color shapes.
2.The “pita,” stuffed like a gyro with these
bits and pieces of sliced color units, pushes back the triangular “mountain”
and flattens like a ledge to project the “horses” and “fence posts.”
gist of it.
Here are the
clues close up:
As you examine
the top of the picture, you can see how one of the two pyramidal color units
that was the mountain slides behind the other.You can also see how the “tree line” undulates back in space.And you can see how, within each color unit,
slivers of color-chorded bands ripple and swirl in soft, pastel-like hues. To
continue my gyro analogy, skewers of “toothpicks” facet each area creating a
entire picture shimmers and quivers as if a mass of fireflies were swarming
I suspect you
are thinking: “like a gyro?”
Here is a
picture of a gyro:
Look at the bottom of the gyro and compare it to the “field”
in my picture.Notice how the back of it
is vertical and further back in space.And notice how all the “stuff” in it (those rectilinear and banded color
volumes) overlap and recede in that space.
That’s all I’m saying.
You may have come up with other comparisons.That’s fine.
That’s the “creative seeing” part of this.
I used a simile to describe the qualities in my
picture.I said the picture is like a
gyro. I did not say the picture is a gyro.Think of Robert Burns’ simile: “O my Luve's like a red, red rose.”Similes compare one thing to another.In this case, Burns says his love shares the qualities of a rose:
delicacy, softness, sweetness, fragility.He says it in poetic language.He
stresses the “r’s” in the staccato beats of red, red, rose.
I say my picture is like a gyro because it expresses
qualities of the softness, puffiness, and sponginess of an opened pita along
with the spatial recession of small, multi-colorful, units overlapping and
moving back in its pocket of space.
Just the other day, on one of my evening walks, the
landscape opened up in just this way.I am in Delaware now, not Colorado. I was not
hallucinating. It’s the visual gift that keeps on giving.Once I invented this color statement, I now can see that visual idea in our “real” world when I never did before.