Saturday, November 15, 2014

Developing Visual Intelligence

Developing visual intelligence starts with looking at art. Any art. Finding the work that appeals to you begins the process, building sensitivity to the variations in visual form. Just like taste in music is highly individual, resonating with personal life rhythms, the structure in a painting, more than its subject matter, evokes an attitude toward it that corresponds with an individual point-of-view. This feeling of connection with the perspective of the artist is one of the pleasures associated with art that affirms personal meaning. The structure is the essence of an aspect of human feeling and the perception of essences is what visual intelligence is all about.

Just like you might read philosophy to try to structure verbal ideas, the increasing exposure to art that has endured over time clarifies essential visual structures by which we understand the meaning of experience. Near and far, above and below, open and closed, are as basic to us as gravity and light. The nuanced relationships between these and other spatial qualities are accompanied by inner adjustments we understand as the universal feelings we share as human beings. They are universal because we share the same body structure and mechanisms for navigating the world that form the core of our concepts. This is the basis for the growing discipline of  “enactivism” with it’s emphasis on meaning as rooted in experience and developing the American pragmatist emphasis on context, that meaning can’t be divorced from its particular situation. A model of the philosophy,  Jane Addams understood the importance of art in strengthening the universal connecting feelings in the various immigrant communities she served with Hull House. Far from frivolous, the arts spoke a deeper language and educated a larger understanding.

Visual intelligence depends on taking feelings seriously. Looking at art and following personal inclinations is a way of mirroring the inner reality. It opens a realm of self-knowledge and schools perception of essential structure. It's a necessary step for navigating the complexity of the future.

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