Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Mind's Eye

"When your eyes are open you see beauty in anything." - painter Agnes Martin

I really like to read, but for the last two years or so a significant amount of my time has either been spent in class, on homework, at work, or asleep. As a result of this, I have developed a bad habit of starting a different book every time I have time to pick one up. I do like variety, but I hate overlapping things and I really hate not finishing things (at least, things that I like). I’m the same way with food. I don’t like having little bites of everything on my plate; I eat one thing and move onto the next only after the other is gone.

Anyway, one of the books that I have started relates directly to the foundational theme of this class: looking. The book is called “How to Look at Everything” and it is by the photographer/painter/sculptor, David Finn. Don’t let the elementary title and cover fool you; there is some good stuff inside! I am going to share a lot of excerpts because I found so many valuable thoughts and ideas and ways of illustrating things that pertain to exactly what we’re doing, and these are all ones I couldn’t bring myself to weed out…and these are only from the first chapter. It’s basically just a good book and you should go buy it or, at least, check it out of the library.

Quotes/excepts from Chapter One: The Mind’s Eye

“The mind's eye incorporates what we know with what we see. Since each of us has a unique conglomeration of facts, memories, associations, and speculations in our heads, what one mind's eye sees at any moment is very different from what another mind's eye sees. Artists, writers, and personal friends can open our eyes to what they see and thereby enlarge our vision, but ultimately the images that form in our brains are our own.”

“One of the secrets of the art of looking is the ability to focus on details. That is not very different from shopping in a store where your eye picks out from a multitude of objects those that happen to interest you. The trick is to know what you are looking for. In a supermarket, you may be trying to find a particular brand, or size of container, or item on sale; if you are a practiced shopper you will know how to find what you seek. You also may be able to pick out a sought-after book in a wall of bookshelves because you remember something about the jacket.”

“By looking carefully at things that excite us we can train our eyes to see what others may not notice.”

“What is it that goes on in our brains that transforms commonplace sights into images that can have this kind of effect? Perhaps some neurological discovery will be made one day that will explain how it happens. People who know how to meditate deeply have described the sense of awareness of the outer world and the feeling of oneness with the universe that accompanies the state of ecstasy they achieve. Others have testified to the sharpness of vision that is induced by certain drugs. But great artists may have developed their own sight-enhancing practices. They know how to trigger the nerve-endings in their brain that make seeing more than just looking. The artist Henri Matisse used to tell his students that the inner feeling they had when looking at something was more important than what they saw literally with their eyes. What was important was to "render the emotion" awakened within them. He urged them to close their eyes and hold the vision, and they would see the object better than with their eyes open. In his essay "Exactitude is not the Truth," Matisse wrote that conviction does not depend on "the exact copying of natural forms . . . but on the profound feeling of the artist before the objects that he has chosen, on which his attention is focused and the spirit of which he has penetrated."

“So how does one look at everything through the mind's eye? This book will attempt to give some guidance; but the shorthand answer is with passion. One can be passionate about anything one sees--anything and everything. All it takes is the willingness to open your eyes and your heart, and let feelings grow strong within you.”

“The mind's eye is magical. Through it we can see loved ones who are no longer here, by looking at objects they owned that were precious to them. We can create works of art in our heads out of a special vision that we can nurture within us. One way that we can nurture this vision is by looking at art created by masters. These masterpieces can teach us how to transform what we look at with our naked eye, or what we imagine in our mind's eye. All we need is the will to do so.”

1 comment:

  1. Hazel--a fantastic post--a nice, well-written introduction, and the quotes are though-provoking--very glad to learn of this book.

    The only tip I would have it that perhaps there could be a bit more of YOU talking through one or two of the excerpts, telling us what you think about it, how you read what he is saying, how what he says might pertain to you.

    And all that just might be a great SECOND post!