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Introduction to Opening the Eye Mind by Sokuzan Bob Brown
Submitted by Patrick Groneman on Thu, 4/19/2012, 2:07pm
by Sokuzan Bob Brown
Maybe, when we come to look at artwork, what is hanging on the wall so to speak, we really see what is there. If we do see, appreciate it, we don’t necessarily complain that we don’t get it or that we are confused by the creations we find. When we just look and appreciate what we see, this appreciation doesn’t necessarily mean we “like” it. The American Heritage Dictionary has this definition for the word Appreciation: “Recognition of the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of people and things.” One French word for Appreciation is “critique”. It means just appreciating what something is and giving it the room, space to be that, even if we don’t agree. It carries a sense of environmental generosity. Like saying first of all that someone has taken the time to make something and that they have gone through whatever obstacles, challenges and requirements it took to place it before us. We appreciate that. Next we look at what it actually is that they have made, before we have an opinion.
When we come into a museum or gallery space where there are paintings, sculpture and other visual displays, creations of artists who have made and put together images and objects, we are often not really open to what is there. What I mean is, to use the baggage image, we are lugging our preconceptions, opinions and other conceptual contraptions behind us. Not to say that some of these ideas, trainings aren’t valuable, they are. But when they take the place of, or get in the way of the direct perception, the visual experience itself then our world is compromised and we miss the incredible power, force, emotions and even delicacy of this visual dimension that is arising in front of us moment by moment.
Not being a gifted artist or appreciator for that matter I have had to train myself to really see, to really look at what was before me and set aside my reactions that were based mainly on fear and not wanting to be wrong. This was around 50 years ago when I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1963-65. It began when I decided to sit down in front of a painting, a portrait of Sylvette David, by Picasso because I did not understand what had been done.
So day after day I went into the galleries and sat down on a bench that was provided there and looked at this piece for hours. I did this for many weeks, even months. This repetitive looking became a real seeing of what this visual genius of the twentieth century had created. This discovery was my own perception and not what I had been told about his work. The initial experience along with many more years of meditation practice has lead me to develop some exercises whereby others can cut through their tendency to pre-judge or preconceive what is right under their nose and see, even participate in the creation itself.
Revised 04-2012 copyright Sokuzan Bob Brown.
Note: This post is an introduction to the practices that Sokuzan Bob Brown will be offering to the IDP Community during a weekend workshop at IDP May 4-5th called Opening the Eye Mind.
He'll also be leading an Art sharing event on Sunday May 6th called Art CAVE: Community Art Viewing Exchange.
For more info on those workshops click here.
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