Do you ever think about how much you look at in a day and how little of it you actually see? This week at work Amy Herman came to the office to present her “Art of Perception” workshop. You can read all about her work with cops, medical students and the like here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Teaching-Cops-to-See.html I should add that Amy (lawyer-turned-art historian) is a great example of how following a passion can lead you down roads you could never imagine. Roads that lead to workshops with the NYPD and Scotland Yard. And a 2-minute segment on the CBS Nightly News.
The basic objective of the workshop is that she uses art to help develop and sharpen observation and communication skills. She flashes a painting or photograph and we describe what we see. Just the facts. It was amazing how even with instruction, many defaulted to adding to his or her description assumptions or inferences that weren’t based in the facts. We all see the world–and art–slightly differently, and these exercises were a healthy reminder of that. In fact, she disallows use of the words “obviously” and “clearly” because, as she proved again and again, what is obvious or clear to one person is often very much not so to another. We get caught up in our own little bubbles, our reactions and assumptions tinged by our own life experiences. It is worthwhile to take a step back once in a while and really observe. What do I see? What I am missing? How can I best relay this information to someone else?
Communication is so often marred by misunderstandings born from assumptions. To present a full picture will always require attention to detail while maintaining perspective of the greater whole. And her workshop tries to teach just that. Practice makes perfect–and what better way to practice than with art? Since her presentation I have been trying to pay more attention to the details of my daily life that too often are just a blur. This morning I studied people on the metro–their outfits, expressions, body language. It’s really kind of fun and helps pass the time. And who knows what you can discover? Just think of the possibilities that may have been missed in those things we’ve looked at but never taken the time to see.