Looking with Your Whole Body

Excerpts from a conversation with Jane Rosen, Parabola, Fall 2011: 

Seeing isn't what we think it is. What we call seeing is "looking." Looking is when you go out and you look at something. You have a number of facts about that thing and you put them together as a mental construct. When students in my class look at the model often they are not seeing it. Paul Klee said to his students, "Yes. I want to draw what I see, but first you must see what you draw."

The first look is a word, a name. To me anything that is attached to words and names is mental looking. Then, I think there is a looking with your whole body as if there were tentacles that sense and touch the totality of the thing you're looking at so that the tree stops being leaves, branches, roots. It starts becoming a clustering, a gathering, a drooping, a lifting, a turning.

...the word "attend," attendez, to wait. Attention is to wait.

When you talk about seeing what is real, to me, there is an invisible reality behind the visible reality. What I think it's supposed to look like, I have to let go of, in order to see what is. That demands attending to it — in other words, waiting — allowing the impression of the bird to come in, rather than going out to it. It's a really subtle shift...You're just there and it's moving through you, and you're not in the way.

We almost always have a vest interest in the outcome of a sculpture or an idea, or an idea about how we want the world to be or how we want ourselves to be and, as a result, we don't see the sculpture, the coyote, the world, or ourselves. So if you let go and you follow it, there is always a moment where this other kind of reality becomes visible. That's what I think seeing is.

Read the whole interview here...