4 Mar
Posted in: Practice
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Going Back to Looking Again

As some of you know from previous posts (here, here, herehere, and here), I’ve had an on-again-off-again practice of going to the Art Museum and looking at a piece of art — 13 times — each time writing in my journal, beginning with the phrase: Now I see….

For some reason, I never finished all 13 viewings of Guanyin (although I thought I had at the time), so now I’ve been going back and looking again. Here’s what I wrote on the 9th viewing:

Now I see the space around her, empty but not empty (as they say). Empty of the wood and paint that “she” — the statue — is made of, but FULL of the shadows and light, the ever-so-slightly shifting of my perception and also, of course, full of spaceFull of the potential for something else to be there. Full of the negative space created by the presence of the material form.

It’s as if this space is holding her there. Softly. Cushioning, even. And the neutral putty-grey color of the base on which she sits, and the walls around her, reflecting onto the colors of her form–not separate from her. Not of the form, but affecting it. Contrasting against it. And also supporting it, embracing it. Allowing for its presence.

The spotlights, too, a part of her form. Because how differently she would appear if any one of them — or all of them! — were turned off. The shadows that articulated her form would fall away. The colors would darken, fade, grow less distinguishable. Or she would disappear altogether in the darkness  The form would still be there, but “I” would have no experience of it.

So the light is definitely a part of the form, the experience of the form. And the fact that I am looking at it, too, is a part of it. Because I no longer “see her” when my eyes are focused on the page where I am writing, but I “see her” in my mind. Or, rather, I experience the memory of seeing her. And then I turn away from the page, turn back to the form, and she appears once again in my actual — externally generated — experience. Or, rather, externally dependent experience.

But my experience is also internally dependent, because I recognize her. I remember having seen her before and I experience the accumulated experiences of having seen her before. Or at least a residue of those experiences.

I look to her face and I see the darker-than-the-rest place between her slightly-openend eyelids. I see what I see, but maybe I see this instead of that — because I remember having seen those shades below her eyelids before, when I’ve stood closer and looked more directly into them.

So this is what I see “now.” But only because of what I have seen “before.” Dependent on the light and the form, on my eyes, my glasses even, and depending on the intention I have made to look at her, dependent on my attention, on memory, and on the intention and the skill and the attention of the artist — of his/her tools, training, available time — even on the light that was present while he/she worked…  All of this — and so much more — is present in this moment of seeing!   

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