Visual Intelligence

Since books are such a big part of my life, I thought I would share one that I am slogging through right now.  I say slogging because it’s not an easy read.  It isn’t one of those books you grab on a dreary day or an afternoon at the beach and read from cover to cover falling in love with characters and stories.

This one is deep.  And it relates to art…and life.  It’s called Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman.  It’s a fascinating look at how we see, which I now understand is not the same as looking.  We all look at things.  But unfortunately we don’t really see.  Amy is a lawyer and art historian.  She teaches people to see, people like the NYC Police Department, the FBI and the Department of Defense.  But here is the really interesting part.  She does that through teaching people to actually see art.  

Amy will take groups to the museums and rather than standing in front of a painting for a few seconds, gathering it in and moving on, they stand and really look.  As someone with an art history minor and a painter, I was ashamed of how little I actually saw in the illustrations she uses.  She is an equal opportunity art aficionado.  The first piece I attempted in the book was a piece by Magrite.  Totally familiar to me, but I looked, identified, and moved on.  In the next pages of her book, she then asked pertinent questions.  I am ashamed to say that I missed the answers to every one.  Whether it was because I had some kind of elitist view that I already knew, or was it because that assumption made me gloss over some of the most visible details in response to the whole. Didn’t really matter which it was, but was so enlightening.  Our eyes don’t actually see.  They are merely the entrance to our brains, basically a tool, not the end to the means but actually the means to an end.  Ms. Herman uses her classes to teach others, including those that protect us daily, to actually see, not just look at a situation or an event.  What is really happening in that conflict on the street, or in the home between the family members.  For them, the purpose being, to avoid unnecessary use of force, or employ necessary force and keep loss to a minimum.

Thank goodness, I do not need to worry about those kinds of things personally, however possibly learning to actually see just might make a difference in my own life sometime, somewhere.  And obviously it does affect people around the world every day as we have all experienced via the evening news.  However, I am excited to study this book, most likely a chapter at a time, and enhance my visual intelligence when it comes to the passions in my life : art, beauty, color, nature, form.