Magic Eye

Over the next few Thursdays I’ll be talking about topics that came out of a discussion I had with The Council of Arty Cleverness. They suggested some blog topics and so I’m running with them. This one was Hannah’s idea.

I have this giant painting hanging in my living room. It’s four feet tall by six feet wide. I have it rather accidentally: I found it at the yard sale of a retiring art professor who had cleaned out the storage in her studio at her university. I paid $20 for it about 20 years ago. When we moved from North Carolina, the moving company sent an agent out who measured it meticulously. On the day of the move, the truck showed up with a giant handmade crate to move it from there to here.

I’ve looked at this painting a lot over the years. I had originally thought I would gesso over it because a canvas of that size for $20 is a steal, but something happened while it hung in my living room. I got attached to it and so it’s remained as is. Maybe finished by some unknown North Carolina State University art student but likely as not just an abondoned work.

So when my daughter declared the other day that she saw a parrot in it, I was surprised. It wasn’t a shape I’d ever seen in the piece before in all of my time looking at it. It got me thinking about how we as humans tend to see things in abstract paintings and how much I enjoy the adventure of listening to people seeing things in my work that I didn’t intentionally put there.

I’m not a drawer of things. I don’t want to paint scenes, still life, landscapes, or portraits. I’m much more interested in color and movement and emotion. If representaional images happen to show up in that color and movement, it’s a happy by-product of what I’m doing and almost always completely unintentional.

This collage that I finished a few weeks ago is a great example of that. I have it hanging in my dining room right now because it’s a spot where I can see my work in a variety of lights throughout the day. The other night I had some friends over and one of them spent about ten minutes telling me about the women she could see in it. I just smiled and nodded. I loved hearing her description of what I didn’t mean to put there.

I think maybe when I was younger I might have gotten a tiny bit aggravated over people telling me what I meant to do. Maybe not. But I suspect the younger version of me would have been more interested in being “correct” than engaging with people where they are. Now I see it as a bit of an open window into the person’s thoughts and heart filtered through the work that I made. A look through their magic eye, if you will. That connection is often times as interesting to me as the thing I am finished and done with.

So the next time you see something in my work, feel free to tell me what you see. I’m likely to be captivated by your magic eye.