September. Education. Travel. During my teaching trip to Seattle, I connected with many artists who shared ideas and enthusiasms. I’ve been working with my local arts council on two grants to integrate arts in the public schools, and yesterday I moved my daughter into her college dorm room. This bubbling champagne glass of learning, teaching, and pondering possibilities in education finally settled today – pooling somehow in a wonderful video interview with artist and founder of New York magazine, the wise Milton Glaser.
“The first step is always, in the Buddhist sense, to acknowledge what is — and that’s very hard to do. But, incidentally, drawing — and attentiveness — is one of the ways you do that. The great benefit of drawing … is that when you look at something, you see it for the first time. And you can spend your life without ever seeing anything.”
This is an idea I emphasize when I teach writing about your art, that “seeing” and “looking” are complex processes. You can’t expect your audience to see your art – to truly “see” it as you do – in one visual gulp. That’s where writing comes in. Use language to help people look, and to understand more about how you have come to see the work. What have you paid attention to?
Attentiveness is the lifelong work of the artist. Glaser continues:
“You have to constantly be attentive to what you deflect in life, and what you pay attention to, and all the things that you can’t see, and all the preconceptions that you do have about everything. Those preconceptions basically blur your vision — it’s very hard to see what’s in front of you.”
Yet all the effort, theories and complexities come down to the direct, satisfying experience of making something.
“I imagined myself as a maker of things from the age of five. I realized that to make something was miraculous, and I never stopped.”
Glaser’s view of arts education:
“You have to separate making a living, which is one activity – and one everybody has to face – with enlarging one’s understanding of the world … That is what the arts provide, a sense of enlargement, and the sense that you haven’t come to the end of your understanding, either of yourself or of other things.”
We can share what we see, share in the commonality of the art experience, but there are no certainties. As Milton Glaser teaches:
“A certainty is a closing of the mind.”