Welcome to A Conversation with Art
Today’s theme is about the eyes.
When looking at the eyes in an artwork, the viewer can get a sense of how to read the work. The eyes can be a clue into the interpretation of the work of art.
We’ll begin with looking at one eye, very close up. To explain the size of this eye, reach out like you are going to give a huge hug to a person, that is how big this eye is, 44 by 44 inches, almost 4 feet wide and high. It’s a big eye created with textile fibers. When this artwork, Red Eye, was exhibited in the gallery, it was impossible to walk past it without giving a nod, or a shared grin to the work. The eye became a friendly face to say hello to, like checking in with a family friend. The fibers used to make the eye 3-Dimensional and stick out made you want to run your hand over the surface to feel its softness, that’s what I imagined it felt like since I didn’t touch the artwork.
Let’s have a conversation. As the saying goes, there is more than meets the eye. It means there is always another story, there is more to tell or in this case more to look into.
What happens when the eye becomes a camera’s eye. The photographer is looking at her subject through the camera’s lens, in turn, someone is taking a photograph using a camera’s eye pointed toward the artist, the photographer. This is a portrait of the artist, herself.
So we are looking at the photographer, her creative eye which is her camera. Her face is hidden by the cloth and the camera. She’s showing the viewer who she is, a photographer, no need to see her face.
Let’s have a conversation. The artist doesn’t want to show her face but she gives us a clue to focus on, a stuffed animal she is holding up playfully. It looks like she is using it to distract the sitter, to smile, to let their guard down. Maybe she’s actually distracting us like we are the sitter, and the photographer wants us to keep our eyes on the toy, and not on her.
This is an artist studio and the artist's eyes are looking right at us. How does she even know we are here looking at her work? The artist is in the center of her painting looking at her subject, not really us but she painted it to look like it could be anyone who is viewing the artwork. She shares with us her unwavering eyes, studying her subject. She looks serious. The artist has allowed us a private moment in her studio, a self-portrait along with her paints, canvases, and brushes.
Let’s have a conversation. What is the subject of the painting? Her studio, the artist herself? Her painting? or could it be her eyes concentrating on her subject?
Eyes are the window to your soul, was written by William Shakespeare. The man looking up in this painting has a massive soul, he’s glancing up toward the sky at the heavens. His eyes might be narrow, but they are wide open. His environment tells us he might be suffering, he looks vulnerable under the bridge, a few items are nestled in the corner by a wall. The artist depicted a human condition, not one that’s pretty to look at but real and part of our own environment. He looks like you might know him, not combative but approachable and at ease.
Let’s have a conversation. Because the artist painted the man looking up, his eyes are owned by the heavens, not the viewer. We are just a bystander, taking a glimpse into his world for only a moment.
This painting has three sets of eyes. The young black girl's eyes are narrowing and staring directly at an older man's face. She’s not blinking, she is giving him a harsh look. The man crouching down to her level has a hat covering his eyes. Can we trust him, we can’t see and look into his eyes. And the third set of eyes are the dolls. A white porcelain doll with a white ruffle hat. The doll's eyes are blue, not reflecting the young girls. The eyes in the artwork cause the viewer to look in their direction, back and forth, between the girl and the older white man, but what’s in the way is this fancy doll. The doll with big wide eyes is between them causing the tension, both figures are touching the doll. We don’t know if the doll is being given to the girl, or if the girl in the maid's outfit is accepting it?
Let’s have a conversation. What the artist does show us is the eyes become the window into this uncomfortable moment and with the man's eyes covered by the rim of his hat, trust becomes nearly impossible.