The size of individual windows can vary enormously, as can their proportions. And while their shape is most often rectangular, they can be any shape you can imagine.
Whether tall and narrow or wide and squat, a window fulfills a service difficult to imagine living without. As different as windows might be, they all share this common quality. They illuminate rooms and generally allow a room’s occupant to see out.
Still, windows have additional qualities not universally recognized.
Whenever I’m at the kitchen sink, the window opening onto the backyard affords a relatively unobstructed view. My familiarity with the scene, however, ends up imposing some easily overlooked limitations. In fact, I’m often tricked into thinking I’m seeing more than I am.
As I gaze through the window, I see the familiar framed view, and unconsciously use memory and imagination to embellish what is before me. Although I’m seeing only part of the backyard, I’m feeling and experiencing it as a whole, or at least as much I can remember.
There’s another way to use windows.
If I consciously suspend my conditioned responses, even for just a few minutes, the window presents me with some tantalizing possibilities. In fact, one limitation imposed by the window, the partial view, can actually entice me to focus, look deeper, and begin seeing without the aid of conditioned memory.
When I move my body a few feet to the left, the dusty red toolshed slides across my view until it vanishes stage left. Now I’m presented with a framed expanse of green lawn backed by unruly woods. Moving to the right, the toolshed again slides into view along with the neighbor’s pickup truck parked in their driveway. This often makes me smile because from this vantage point, the truck seems about to be engulfed by the surrounding untamed leafy vines.
These three views each evoke vastly different feelings. Outside in the yard, those three views would blend into one inseparable whole.
That single window can provide either an opening through which to casually peruse the backyard, or a focused looking glass that captures mesmerizing vignettes.
So what’s the connection to art?
To my mind, an artist’s work functions as a series of metaphorical windows. On one hand, you can approach and view the artwork at its face value, a simple or complex conglomeration of colors, shapes, and constructs. Of course, at this level everything is so simple and so easily judged, liked, or dismissed.
The interaction goes something like this.
“Show me something. Nup, next. Okay, that’s passable. Next.”
And on it goes.
Alternatively, and much like the engaging vignettes a window can offer, you can view artworks with the approach that they frame ideas, sensibilities, and perceptions. Then they can nudge you towards expanded awareness where the world is seen differently.
And it doesn’t matter one iota what the artwork’s style might be. We’re not talking about categories here, we’re talking essence.
If a particular artwork grew from an inspired and passionate vision, and the artist gave both heart and soul to its creation, it certainly deserves our serious consideration. It deserves something much greater than our usual fleeting scrutiny.
Answer this honestly: regarding art, do you have strong likes and dislikes? No need to squirm, most people do. While being true to your inner sensitivities and aesthetics is an act of honoring yourself, to walk a truly honest path you must also take the time to examine those personal tastes in a clear light. Search out and discover what percentage of your opinions has arisen from a field of unacknowledged biases and conditioning.
And if you discover you do indeed have some hefty biases, then simply start afresh.
Next time you’re standing before a piece of artwork, give yourself some inner emotional space. Feel your way into the artwork without indulging in quick dismissals. When you feel resistance and judgment coming up, do your best to let them wash over and through you. Just let them go.
Honor the artist’s vision by resisting the impulse to prejudge and classify the work. If you succumb to such pigeonholing you’re effectively slamming the door on any possibility of seeing beyond your normal, safe, and most likely, limited viewpoint.
To sidestep persistent prejudgments, begin asking yourself some questions.
- What was the artist trying to express?
- What’s this work encouraging me to see differently?
- These colors, textures, and shapes, what’s their point and what emotions or sensibilities are they moving me towards?
Once you possess even a partial understanding of the artist’s intent, you can then more safely allow your habitual tastes a freer reign. You can now use your natural sensitivity with far less prejudice. Explore the artwork afresh and uncover its hidden secrets.
Any artwork born in a state of passionate, heightened awareness is a window opening onto a unique facet of life. Because of this uniqueness, it can help the viewer step beyond the limits of their own conditioned seeing.