Sunday, November 30, 2014


Colorized Movies

Colorized movies are a good example of something that should not be done just because it’s possible. The violence done to artistic intention neutralizes a film as art. When a photographer frames a scene in black and white the composition flows with the distribution of light and shadow that sets a mood that emphasizes significant relationships within the scene. Colorizing heightens the separation of things. Shifting the attention to the objects distorts the original intention of the scene by removing the powerful emotional influence exerted by that original mood. Before we know what we’re looking at the body has responded to the space it’s confronted with and adjusted to what’s expected of it. Our inner consciousness of this adjustment is what is experienced as a mood or feeling. As neuroscientist Candace Pert says” Our body IS our unconscious mind.”

Color has its own power over emotions by affecting the physical body. Red is known to stimulate and blue to slow the chemical reactions in the body that register as our vital signs. Perhaps the relaxation is necessary to the creativity blue has also fostered while the heightened focus found with red is the expected result of a stimulant. Instead of artful use of this power colorized movies reflect the colors we expect from the world.  As Gregory Bateson said, "Information is the difference that makes a difference.” What gets our attention is what we don’t expect. Movies filmed in color control the way the color affects the body and emotions. Like shadows unify the props in a scene and light can single out something particular for notice, thoughtful use of color can draw attention to relationships within the scene, heightening whatever level of tension builds the appropriate anticipation. The brain is designed to predict and if the messages of the scene are wrong , there’s disharmony. Colorizing a movie created in black and white neutralizes the emotional richness of a film. Younger generations, not realizing a movie’s been colorized might wonder why anyone thought it was such a great movie, never seeing the art that brought the depth of the movie home. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas my husband and I always watch the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" with Alistair Sim. Not only is he our favorite Scrooge, the scenes are gorgeous examples of meaning emphasized by use of light and shadow. The way light and darkness is used evokes Dickens’ time and enables each scene to express the psychological transformation of Scrooge with the amount of darkness and how it gives way to light as his understanding grows.

 Even when blurry, the relation of light and dark is all we need to move around in the world. That preverbal relation to spatial features sets a tone that influences us unconsciously and can’t be ignored without sacrificing emotional meaning. So if you're watching a movie that's been colorized this holiday, consider turning the color all the way down to see it the way it was intended

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sky Light

      This image has been reposted in honor of Rhian Elizabeth Williamson, born 11-11-14.

Developing Visual Intelligence

Developing visual intelligence starts with looking at art. Any art. Finding the work that appeals to you begins the process, building sensitivity to the variations in visual form. Just like taste in music is highly individual, resonating with personal life rhythms, the structure in a painting, more than its subject matter, evokes an attitude toward it that corresponds with an individual point-of-view. This feeling of connection with the perspective of the artist is one of the pleasures associated with art that affirms personal meaning. The structure is the essence of an aspect of human feeling and the perception of essences is what visual intelligence is all about.

Just like you might read philosophy to try to structure verbal ideas, the increasing exposure to art that has endured over time clarifies essential visual structures by which we understand the meaning of experience. Near and far, above and below, open and closed, are as basic to us as gravity and light. The nuanced relationships between these and other spatial qualities are accompanied by inner adjustments we understand as the universal feelings we share as human beings. They are universal because we share the same body structure and mechanisms for navigating the world that form the core of our concepts. This is the basis for the growing discipline of  “enactivism” with it’s emphasis on meaning as rooted in experience and developing the American pragmatist emphasis on context, that meaning can’t be divorced from its particular situation. A model of the philosophy,  Jane Addams understood the importance of art in strengthening the universal connecting feelings in the various immigrant communities she served with Hull House. Far from frivolous, the arts spoke a deeper language and educated a larger understanding.

Visual intelligence depends on taking feelings seriously. Looking at art and following personal inclinations is a way of mirroring the inner reality. It opens a realm of self-knowledge and schools perception of essential structure. It's a necessary step for navigating the complexity of the future.