I recently was given the gift of an old book: The Quiet Eye, a way of looking at pictures, by Sylvia Shaw Judson (1954,1982 Regnery Gateway). The author was a well know Quaker sculptor. Two of her best known works are the monument to the Quaker Mary Dyer in front of the Boston State House and The Little Gardener which was bought by Jacqueline Kennedy for the Rose Garden of the White House.
Judson put together this collection of images of artwork through the centuries coupled with short quotes of poetry or prose; works created ” in a still moment of overpowering grace”. She quotes Plato in her introduction, that a work of art exists in its own right ” not images of beauty, but realities”.
These ideas touch my artistic sensibilities in that, yes, I am trying to pull a deeper reality from the subject in my work, but also that I don’t want the viewer to forget that this image, this object , is paint on a surface.
Marc Rothko, when asked, stated that “the optimum viewing distance for his work was 18 inches”. This, after all, is the distance that we stand from the surface when we paint. You are assuming the view of the artist at the moment of creation when you stand that close. You will see paint with tool marks on a surface, e.g. brushstrokes on canvas. The image dissolves into reality.
This however, doesn’t take away the spirit and emotion of a work created in “a still moment”. This knowledge enhances the reality of that moment of grace.
And I, after reading this book, am pleased that I am continuing this tradition of creating with a “quiet eye” that Judson portrayed in these pages.
“We apprehend Him in the alternate voids and fullness of a cathedral; in the space that separates the salient features of a picture; in the living geometry of a flower, a seashell, an animal; in the pauses and intervals between the notes of music, in their difference of tones and sonority; and finally, on the plane of conduct, in the love and gentleness, the confidence and humility, which give beauty to the relationships between human beings.”
~ Aldous Huxley