In the most diverse classes I’ve ever taught, multiracial, multicultural and from different national and economic backgrounds, there was never any problem understanding each other’s art. The expression and feeling in visual form engages a universal response system. From the beginning of life, we learn the ups and downs of navigating our world using the same systems of response to space as everybody else. This specific and highly nuanced relation to surrounding territory sees the state of balance and the trajectories of moving objects and anticipates what to do in relation to them. Awareness of the body’s adjustments to these expectations creates the feeling we experience consciously. Just because we’re not conscious of the first part doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, perception is always guiding conscious attention to the needs that demand it. From infancy, we learn the way the world behaves in a commonsense physics that becomes so automatic it’s taken for granted, yet it’s a complex multifaceted intelligence that scaffolds conceptual knowledge. Art stimulates visual intelligence stirring feelings with essential form based on the relationship with space we share as a species. Cultivating that level of understanding is a way to build on our commonality. Human differences are just the skin of who we are cloaking the outside of the core understanding we share.
The particular details of every person’s life are varied, but they are structured by universal human needs. The locations of our memories may look very different and school particular sensitivities, but the routines of living are basic to us all. The patterns of home, school, work, social gathering, create common circuitry through the way we function within them. Beneath that is the hardwired response to gravity, movement and balance. The ability to discern significance can be developed by looking at art which reinforces essential relations. This builds the circuits of visual sensitivity and triggers personal reflection that builds on human meaning structure. It needs no translation and creates bridges where words cannot.
With new graduates coming into the workforce, employers would be wise to recognize that art students have concentrated on training their perceptual intelligence and this attunement to the big picture can apply anywhere. It’s a way of thinking that’s been neglected by education and those who have immersed themselves in it at an art college have cultivated their ability to cut through the mountains of information to see what’s important. That combined with the practice of their creativity offers an exceptional resource for the future.