Frame what you see…Look up and beyond…Learn about yourself…
Six months ago when I published my first post, I recognized these as axes underpinning my personal grid.
I have always looked intently.
I love to learn.
Yet what triggered this blog was really the need to frame it all in my eyes, my mind and my life. Along came the hope that others would get it (get me!) and perhaps go see and look a bit more.
Writing became a way to crystallize it all while facilitating the sharing element.
It was no accident that I chose Robert Irwin’ s caged bougainvillea trees at the Getty Museum as opening picture to my first blog post then.
Now at my 6-month mark of weekly publishing, I am thinking about another Robert Irwin’s masterpiece. This one I use like others use prayer beads.
It’s a superb quintessential La Jolla view close by. Spread across a large three-paned window, I want to pack it in my suitcase as I prepare myself for a trip filled with art and fun in my native France.
What’s funny is I have not looked at this piece of art for a while because it’s a site-specific installation called 1°2°3°4° and the MCASD is closed for expansion. No access.
It’s no problem though. It’s a view. A quick drive around the building will give me the real deal, the breathtaking vista of the Pacific Ocean framed by palm trees and bathed in ever changing and sparkling SoCal light.
But how many local people actually do it? How many people drive past and turn or pause to take its beauty in? Every single time?
It’s about this view and any other view or object of beauty that surrounds us but has become part of the “furniture”. It’s everything that has become so familiar that we don’t see it anymore.
Fighting “habituation” is really what Robert Irwin’s art is all about.
He did it with Two Running Violet V Forms on the UCSD Campus where you’ve got to admit fighting “habituation” is simply a must to preserve the young brains that will shape our future.
For more, check companion blog post here.
With 1°2°3°4°, it’s about learning to see again or “re-see what is familiar” (Alain de Botton). Never taking what your eyes can see for granted.
The genius of Robert Irwin was to hear and listen to what people visiting MCASD would say when they found themselves “stuck” in this particular room overlooking the ocean – a room with a great view but with little wall space¹ (a problem in a museum). Whatever was on the wall could easily be dwarfed by the majestic view so all that was left to say was: “This is what I call art”.
In Irwin’s words, this was to become “a great statement and an opportunity” as he chose that room for his project of which he says “one thing I really like about it is how it’s almost effortless²”. And this is so true that museum staff still have to deter people from “touching” the art as their natural instincts is to come closer and look through the “window”.
Indeed “effortless” but with a few twists on my prayer beads.
First, the window panes are slightly dark tinted. Then Irwin “cut a square of empty daylight, as it were, into the middle of the window, through the glass³”. And the simplicity of the idea is genius.
Irwin has “literally framed everything that is un-framable4 ”. It sets a liminal space, a space in between what I see through the glass and what I see unobstructed.
The open windows sharpen what I pay attention to. The colors I see from the inside appear darker as seen through the glass. They are anchoring me in the room.
At the same time, the lighter and recessive colors observed directly through the glass cuts pull me out as my eyes leap to the shimmering ocean and the breeze of the palm trees.
This push/pull effect makes me see more, forcing appreciation, fighting habituation.
This art, like all great art, is a window on the wall that allows me to go to another world. Except here, it makes me realize that world is right there…I just need to step into it.
When Irwin declared he “tried that idea of getting people to make that shift – you know, one dimension, two dimensions, three dimensions, four5”, he basically succeeded.
The open squares in the windows let you appreciate all dimensions, including the air temperature, its quality, the way it smells as well as any mist or marine layer the outside world has on offer on a particular day…The effects are endless, never repeated and well worth looking at every time our eyes are open.
I can’t find a better way to conclude than with Robert Irwin summing up his way of looking at the world as a piece of art in his signature plaque in the Getty Gardens he designed:
“Ever present, never twice the same – Ever changing, never less than whole.”
I’d love to hear about the special places where you recharge to fight habituation. The Comment Box is all yours 🙂
© 2017 Ingrid Westlake
All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.
¹ Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Conversations between Robert Irwin and Lawrence Weschler (p.269-271)
² Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Conversations between Robert Irwin and Lawrence Weschler (p.269)
³ Ibid, p.270
4 Ibid, p.271
5 Ibid, p.270