Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Eyes Have It

Sometimes art makes us uncomfortable, or rather it should make us uncomfortable. I recognize that this flies in the face of popular concepts of art consumption. When many people consider “decorating” their homes with art they gravitate toward the tranquil, peaceful, and beautiful. If the work matches the sofa all the better. I have no problem with considerations of color palette. The work in my living room actually matches the furniture, too. We are bound to be attracted to specific color combinations. That, however, is not my main point.

There is a time and place for beauty, but that is not the only purpose of art in the twenty-first century. Art has a forcefulness to it and to neglect that power is to push it into the background—to make it wallpaper. Some art, even that placed in the sanctuaries of our homes, should cause us to pause and consider the deeper aspects of life.

Art that deviates from the beautiful or causes us to consider the great questions of life may not be what everyone wants in his or her bedroom, but it does have a place in the home. This kind of imagery works on us over time. It forms and informs us in subtle ways. If that work is not within our living spaces, but only in museums, then it does not fulfill its purpose. It does not reach its potential.

With all this in mind, I recently obtained several sets of antique doll eyes (pictured here). These are the type of eyes that close when Betsy Wetsy is placed on her back for naptime. The lead weights dangling from the bottom of the pairs of eyes causes them to pivot inside a doll’s head. The first time I came across some of these was at a summer art workshop. A friend had some reserved for an assemblage project. I was fascinated at once.

They are creepy. I will not deny that. Any time we find eyes loosely roaming outside of a head it is creepy. The fact that some of these sets are missing one eye and that I have other eyeballs rolling around that are not even connected to these sets makes them even creepier. I purposely photographed them on the crushed red velvet because it adds a bloody element that is even more disturbing. Maybe not what you want to see when you first awake in the morning, but the unsettling quality can be beneficial.

The idea of using these eyes has been gestating within me for about six years. Even before I purchased some of them I was writing notes about their “artful purpose” within my sketchbooks. Once I had them in hand I started making sketches for the altarpiece construction for which I envisioned them. A few days after I made these initial sketches I found some old notes in another place in my sketchbook and found that the combination of objects and imagery I had been sketching was something I had already been thinking about much earlier, though I had forgotten.

As is normal for postings like this, I’m not going to divulge too much more information about what I plan to do. However, I am going to share that these eyes will be used alongside a type of book page—a form of text—that I have not previously utilized. Gospel pages from a Braille Bible. Okay, now I’m ruining the suspense. Keep checking back for future details.