Monday, November 17, 2014

Ways of Seeing

Some of the images looked liked faces.  One apparently was Santa Claus and others resembled animals or certain expressions.  But only vaguely so.  There are so many ways the mind can contort disconnected curves and lines to becomes a face.   And some of them weren't faces at all.  They were made up of curves and circles and lines and crosses, often asymmetrical.

I stared at 100 of these images for some time in shodo class, trying to pick one.  Each was only about 2 inches square, six per page, and I was supposed to select one, perhaps to write for the spring exhibition.  What do they mean?  I asked.  "Fuku" was the answer, a word difficult to translate but I gathered meant something along the lines of wishes for happiness.   They were all "fuku," good fortune.  Somehow I had to pick one.  Eventually there were two that stood out among others and I asked Sensei for her recommendation.  There was something really relieving about making a purely irrational decision based solely on inclination, using only my perception.  And to see what others had selected, figures that had no interest to me.

It was interesting to see how differently people viewed a semi-random group of lines and curves.  For me, I was definitely more inclined to the ones that looked like faces and certainly didn't prefer the ones with crosses where their mouths should be.  I was looking at the character of each, the feeling of them.  And yet I saw the woman next to me work through the decision-making process, saw her tracing the lines with her finger, perhaps feeling the movement of the figures on the page.  Perhaps others were drawn to the individual parts of each figure rather than the feeling of all the parts together.

I wonder what it's like to have another brain.  I've always wondered; from the time I was a kid I wondered what it would be like to be a different person.  This has no connection to a dissatisfaction with being myself.  It's simply a curiosity.  And to see simple tasks like this where a certain disposition arises outside of reason, reminds me of how differently people can take in the world and how differently we process it.  And it's a reminder of how confusion and misunderstanding can so easily occur between and among people, especially when different cultural upbringings are brought into account.

But it's impossible to really know how we process the world, or how others do it.  Just the vague sense that it isn't identical, and that's really cool but also sometimes really difficult.

The picture on this blog of the blue, green, and black painting is one that was painted for me by an artist in Chicago, Peter Hoffman.  He had a project a few years ago where anyone could send in an application of questions similar to a personality test and based upon that he would paint for them a free painting.  I was amazed at how much I liked it.  I once even realized that it was next to another poster in my room of a tree against a blue sky and dark green ground.  It really fit.  I assumed all his paintings must be somewhat similar, appealing to a generally pleasing aesthetic, one that was comforting to me.  And then I looked at his website which has the paintings he made for this project.

They are all really different.  Some of them speak to me and others are so foreign.  So many ways to see.  And that's just one of the beginnings.

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