I meets eye

I can write about music with some confidence and context. I can make a go at writing about literature, drama, and sports. There’s a chance, even, that I could make sense of an ugly, ad-hominem squabble between a trustee and an ombudsman at a meeting of a zoning board, if it came to it. But the visual arts, your precious visual arts, are my secret black pit of cultural illiteracy and shame.

When I see art that moves me, which is often, I yell, “It feels good in my eye!” and just stand there while everyone else clears out. How it was made, how to analyze it, compare it, and situate it within various traditions are as mysterious to me as the stars pinned on the cape of the night.

In some ways, the pure innocence of the interaction appeals to me. Throw this yellow, art-ignorant naif with the overactive verbal engine and an irrepressible impulse to opine into a room of art and bid me wag my tongue, all interpretive willingness and the fearlessness that comes with no pretense, a bold, even arrogant embrace of the Socratic Paradox:


All I know I know is that I know nothing. I’d speak a lot of nonsense, reinvent several centuries worth of wheels, and maybe have a few perceptions that were immediate, fresh, genuinely worth having.

What keeps me from it, then, and from so many other random conquests I might pick from a hat? When my wife and I were reading widely in alternative education, we came upon a hip theorist who explored how his own diagnosed learning disabilities had influenced the theories, models and methods he developed and espoused. His main takeaway stuck with me: mitigate weaknesses to get by, play to your strengths to prevail.

Time is short. I am not nearly good enough at the things I love to worry too much about the rest.

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.