Art Makes Us See Differently

Sometimes, an artist makes you “think different.”

Artist and classmate in Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s online class (live, last year), 30 Days in Your Journal,  Catherine Scanlon, is one such artist.  (For the record, it’s not as if we know one another; I’m just an admirer of her work.)  For one assignment, she simply printed the negative of a photograph and used it as the basis for a journal page upon which she painted and wrote:

Catherine Scanlon's Negative Photo Journal Page for "30 Days...."

This is a technique I am longing to try for (at least) two reasons.  First, I find the negative image aesthetically pleasing.  Second, I am interested in looking at a familiar “scene,” differently – both visually and metaphorically.  Why not look at the same ol’ setting, with the same ol’ elements, but in a new light?  In looking at the “negative,” I’ve been able to narrow in on elements that, previously, I had taken for granted.  Those bare branches?  How beautiful they are with the focus of new light.  And, hidden in the negative, there are surprising bursts of color.  What else is exciting and “new,” and right before our eyes  – if only we view our familiar situation differently?

Fast forward to today.

We were driving on the Palisades Parkway today after the snowstorm after the hurricane.  For those who are not familiar with this highway, it runs north-south above the cliffs that form the eastern edge of the land of New Jersey (the actual state border extends half-way into the Hudson River).  Every time I look over to those cliffs from the New York side of the river, I think about the melting glaciers, ages ago, cutting through rock to create spectacular topography.  Ahhh….

I prefer the westerly route, driving on top of the cliffs rather than heading north on the New York side of the Hudson.  The Palisades Parkway is a pretty road in any season.

The recent storms are the top story for all news outlets here, as well as among friends and neighbors.  Therefore, it is with a mix of dread and – dare I say? – awe that I viewed the passing landscape.  Of course, I was on the visual hunt for huge trees uprooted, and for other evidence of our two horrific storms.  On the other hand, I am a city kid.  We don’t usually get much snow.  Snow is a big deal on a good day – on a “Hey, we have a snow day to play,” day!  Until it turns mushy and brown, the white ground and branches in New York City are novel and especially beautiful because of their rarity.  I was also looking for the beauty.

Here’s a short video as we headed north on the Palisades Parkway.  On the radio, you can hear WCBS-radio reporting on relief efforts to help those affected by the storms.  Our stomachs are in our throats thinking about, seeing, the losses to family and friends.  We are grateful that our own experience was not worse.  And, at the same time, I am struck with seeing a newly white scene – with so much color.  I thought of Scanlon, of being startled by familiar images, being struck by color where it hadn’t apparently been, of seeing a potentially threatening scene’s loveliness.  What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Art Makes Us See Differently

  1. Wow! I love the video and the idea of seeing in the negative. It reminds me of seeing the space around a thing and not the thing itself. Thanks for this (and for the ride with you!) ;)

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