Human response to visual art is as personal as it is to music. The feeling in the work resonates with feelings in the heart that want recognition. As real and substantial as this inner world is for us, the world of surface functioning tends to see only surfaces, signals like shoes and attitude. People are sold a set of values that disrespects human depth and creates boundaries based on marketed standards. The range of perceptions is narrowed to the superficial categories linked to surface appearance. From the very beginning of life there are currents of being that aren’t recognized and acknowledged by others, yet this rich inner life feels like the heart of who we are. Just as history has told the story of what has happened in the outer world, art has chronicled the inner, showing what it feels like to be human. It is the artist that verifies the life within. Whether in the mood of a scene, the associations with a still life, the energy of an abstraction or the attitude in a portrait, we’re attracted to what relates to our own inner life. Preferences vary with the emotional climate so what we’re drawn to at a particular moment in life will shed light on how we feel at the time. It validates an emotional truth and its connection to the feelings of others. Recognition of this level reminds us how much more there is to us than merely the surface roles we play.
The wide range of art accumulated through time offers many choices to reflect different temperments and different states of mind. The fact that novels like “The Goldfinch” and “Girl With A Pearl Earring” build around a single work from centuries ago is testimony to the centrality of the emotional essence and mystery of the inner world. When art captures the expansive moment the connection to a deep human pattern celebrates the inner self. It can be a powerful tool for self-knowledge that is much more aligned with how people actually experience life than the few words we have to express it. The connection is forged by recognition of an active personal archetype, a truth in our life drama. Modern culture lives on surfaces but the power in human beings is in the depths and any comprehensive understanding needs the clarity of perceptual cognition. Perception sees the whole picture and the interrelationships. Educating perception develops the intelligence that understands the whole. It is the only thing that can help us find solutions to the problems in a fragmented and complex world.
Looking at art has dual benefits in the development of visual intelligence. First is the insight into personal psychology that can unearth blocks and distortions. People are so used to hiding the weather within that they come to disregard it and lose access to the guidance offered by the response to the whole. Second is the refinement of holistic seeing, awareness of overall structure that guides attention to the truly significant in how that structure functions. It reinforces the original intelligence of the body, knowledge of what we expect from spatial relationships, which can get ignored in the labyrinth of the seductive intellect.