The Art of Seeing

In a certain biography of an admired artist, one of the chapters begins with "No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist." This is Oscar Wilde from his essay in dialogue, "The Decay of Lying" (1889). Taken out of context, that is before I read the essay, my imagination went to this photo which I called "The End of the World" because to me it looks as if the water is falling off the edge of the world under a stormy sky, and that's the impression I wanted to leave with this photo. So, let's get straight up front--I'm not saying, or even implying that I'm a great artist. But I agree with Wilde in that art is about seeing vs. looking, which can be a very different thing. In my mind, one looks at something, acknowledges its form, fit or function and moves on, probably to forget as he or she comes upon the next thing on which to look. If this is true, then "one does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence." Wilde goes on to provide an example using fogs. It is only from the poets and painters that we can see fog in all its "mysterious loveliness". My picture, then, represents the awe with which man viewed the world before Pythagoras introduced the idea of a spherical Earth. Today, we can still get that rush by looking at an infinity pool from just the right angle, and we can wonder where does the water go, and we can listen for the crash as the water breaks, that range that is neither too shallow nor too deep to produce a sound that our ears can detect.


Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, May 2012

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