The False Mirror, Rene Magritte

"The False Mirror," Rene Magritte

Is the eye of the artist a lens that simply records what it sees like the lens of a camera? How much of what we “see” is due to our filter of experiences and is subject to our emotional/ mental interpretation?

My mother believed that it was the eye that made the artist, that if an eye from an artist were transplanted to another person, that person would be an artist. I always believed otherwise: that it is the mind, and the openness of the artist’s mind that defines someone as an artist.

Now that I have explored the artist’s path thus far, I know now that  it is not the eye that sees. The eye is not the lens of the camera of the mind. Science has proven that the eye sees more than camera lens can, because the eye sees over time and can adjust to minute or major differences in light and focus. What we “see” is a composite image that is assembled in the brain. But more than this, we are seeing what we feel as much as, or more than what is actually in front of us.

People who have been blind most of their lives cannot adjust to the information from eyes suddenly restored to vision. Dr. Oliver Sacks once wrote in An Anthropologist on Mars of a patient whose sight was restored after something like 30 years of blindness. The patient was unable to interpret what he saw, in fact, his brain was not adapted to receive the input from eyes blind since childhood.

Another case study from the same book cited a painter who suddenly lost all sense of color in a freak car accident. The part of his brain that registered color was damaged. Everything looked like a black and white photograph; he was unable to eat because food looked like it was made out of concrete. Although the experience was disturbing to the artist for some time, eventually he adjusted, becoming a sculptor. The man was still an artist because at his core he was an artist. Circumstances simply had changed the type of input, when he adapted to this minor change, he actually preferred the colorless state; offered a chance to have his sense of color restored, he refused.

What an artist actually sees is less important that what she chooses to see.

In a way, the artist aspires only to be what any other creature is; the natural expression of who they are. As a bird sings because that is the way of the bird, so an artist paints because that is the natural expression of the artist. There is no other way to be, in my view. So the eye of the artist is the artist because the artist no longer is separate from what she views; her every action and creation is her art, no longer separate from her self.

Copyright 2006-2009 Aliyah Marr

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