The Visual Arts Today

The Visual Arts Today

The Visual Arts Today

The Visual Arts Today

Excerpt

Here many minds representing many disciplines are brought to bear on our visual culture. Our justification for an examination of the visual arts of today lies in the key role of vision in our effort to come to terms with our environment.

Vision is above all a cognitive act. The focusing of the welter of optical signals coming from outside to make perceptual images is a basic form of comprehending. We use vision to explore the world, to make ourselves at home in it, and to change it. Even without instruments to aid us, our eyes can establish relations with things as far away as the fixed stars. In our closer environment we depend upon vision to measure and locate things, to identify danger or opportunity.

No less important than the outer vision with which we explore our environment is the inner vision we use to explore ourselves and to find significance and meaning. Our inner world is peopled with sense images--visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactual --formed from the traces in our systems left by our sensory traffic with the environment. These images inside our heads we use to focus experience, code our sensations, crystallize feelings, build our dreams, and set our goals. Without these images our experience would not cohere and our memories would be disconnected and meaningless.

The created visual image, the visible forms we make with our hands and eyes together, link the outer vision that explores the external world with the inner vision that shapes our felt experience into symbols. These created pictures--graphic images, sculptured forms--are basic to communication, expanding an individual experience into one that is shared. They provide a foundation for the arts and sciences and make social and intellectual growth possible.

The artistic image--the work of visual art--is the created image in its highest form, a significant message delivered simultaneously to our senses, our feelings, and our minds. At every stage of history men have looked for images that would keep them oriented in the world, that would tell them what the world was like, how sweet and rich it was, how good or bad . . .

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