Visual Intelligence - Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life
By Amy E. Herman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Boston New York
The book: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/visual-intelligence-sharpen-your-perception/9780544947122-item.html?s_campaign=goo-DSA_Books_Bestsellers&ds_rl=1246160&ds_rl=1254699&ds_rl=1254699&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5Jf8gJf13gIVQrbACh0G1ABMEAAYASAAEgIwFfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
The Author: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v_tn4nyjwE
The author trained in art history and worked for many years at the Frick Museum as a public educator. https://www.frick.org/exhibitions/2018 She now makes her living teaching courses in perception and communication to a diverse group of professionals comprised of people from the worlds of intelligence and law enforcement to Wall Street bond traders. You might well ask what this has to do with art or the artist.
She uses works of art of every genre and age to instruct the students on how to examine art in all the detail that they can muster. As the book progresses, the reader improves his or her skills to see more deeply into the art, while at the same time how to express this detail to others without error or false assumption. At one point, Ms. Herman says that “art makes the invisible, visible”. To unpack this phrase, we must appreciate that our perceptions are unique to ourselves and to our current situations, assumptions, past learning and biases. For example, some of us see man’s best friend as a warm, cuddly companion and others see the canine as a flea ridden beast that is as likely to bite them as not. Just imagine the differences in the art depicting a dog coming from each of these disparate groups. In the act of creation, the artist must take what is in the mind’s eye and invisible to the outside world and transform that perception into an object for all the world to see, a magical process if ever there were one.
As consumers of art we need to be able to express what we see without bias and unjustified assumptions before we can express a valid opinion to others. Above all, this book is an exercise in critical thinking.
With one exception, I can recommend this book highly; that exception being that the illustrations in the book are printed darkly and very small so that their close examination is often difficult. Sometimes, the works are well enough described that an internet search will produce a much clearer version, but when this is not possible, the reader will experience some frustration. Nevertheless, all the exercises are valuable and if undertaken with just a little effort, the reader will make noticeable improvement. One cannot operate in this hyper observant mode all the time, it’s just not practical. But, perusing an art exhibit, or planning to paint a scene, switching this mode on will be very valuable.
Visual Intelligence is available at the Owen Sound library and I expect will be available at libraries elsewhere directly, or through interlibrary loan.