What is art? It is definitely a skill. And? Art is also the way we look at things. How we perceive an object or image is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes, however, art is in the blind spot. We overlook it. Guess now what the above image is. (Curious? Read through to the bottom.)
Let’s try this art thing again. Sometimes you just have to close one eye and look with the other. Squint real hard until the horizon blurs with the sky. Stand on your head. That’s a visual perspective too. If you do it right, you can pick up the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty between your thumb and index finger. Or sometimes you just need to close your eyes to get the full picture. If you stare at something too long, it might fade away, like the famous blind spot. Or you might hypnotize yourself. Life is pretty much an optical illusion. Our brain likes to play games with us. (The photo above was concocted by my daughter Susmita.)
Perception: is the glass half full or half empty? Yes, we all can self-therapize ourselves into happiness. This art form called mindfulness is also a skill. Like everything, it takes practice. Look at the optical illusion on the left. All the squares inside the stripes are middle gray. Would you believe that?
At the Fringe Festival in Toronto we saw a well-done play called “Blind to Happiness”. The one-man act reflected three characters. The least fortunate one, a dish washer in a tavern, learned to deal with his strict boss, skittish girl friend, dominant mother, and a spoiled cat. Was he happy? Maybe. It’s all relative.
And so is art. I have learned to take fairly good photos. Yet they may only look spectacular to me. You have Instagram? Styles and flavors in photography and visual arts are endless. Photos are so cheap and easy these days, iPhone does them all. Why did I ever bother with Dektol? Digital manipulations are the thing. The last little shred of truth goes down the drain, right?
Everybody has their own taste in colors. But how can I be sure that the other person’s teal or mauve or aquamarine registers in their brain at the same value as mine? Perhaps this is less a question of the brain than of the heart. And that is even more inexplicable. Can you distinguish the shapes in the graphic? Congratulations, you are not color blind.
With conscious perception and mindfulness, we can bring art and happiness into view.
SO WHAT’S THE PHOTO ABOVE? It’s a water feature at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. I took several photos from underneath a square wishing fountain with a glass bottom. Then I made a gif out of four frames.