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When I was growing up there were two things that fascinated me: Art and Science. I knew at an early age that I would follow either one of those paths as I traveled down the fantastic road of life. I studied and collected stones and examined EVERYTHING under a microscope. I experimented with chemicals, concoctions and all forms of fizzing, foaming, folly. I also drew each night and day. I captured through my youthful eyes the world as I saw it, both abstract and surreal at times. After a while I brought my attention to detail to my parchment and discovered realism. I found that my art has evolved (as have my beliefs) through a clearly scientific method of investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge and then correcting and integrating previous knowledge. What I ultimately came to realize is - my artistic experience is affected by a neural mechanism that is inherent within all of us.

 

I recently came across a paper from the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California in San Diego which proposed various theories on our propensity to enjoy art. The purpose of this essay was to stimulate a dialog between artists, visual physiologists and evolutionary biologists. It listed eight laws of aesthetic experience and how they related to the human artistic experience: peak shift, isolation, perceptual grouping, contrast, perceptual problem solving, an abhorrence of unique vantage points, visual metaphors and symmetry. These eight principles relate to cognitive brain function and our process of interpretation. The author wrote of our interest in art as “puzzling” while asking, “What biological function could this mysterious behavior serve?”

 

This question along with my own interest in human behavior led me to dive right in to trying to understand a little better the human artistic experience. I agree that the eight principles listed above can definitely be attributed to our basic instinctual and biological behaviors and how we process art; however I want to feel like there is more to it than meets the eye and I’m sure you do, too.

 

Aside from those who suffer from prosopagnosia, we all practice face perception on a daily basis. Our minds interpret and understand the face from birth. This is biologically hardwired into us and our survival depends on it. This is why we see faces everywhere, in everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to crumpled pieces of paper. Through facial recognition we have the ability to identify friendly people and complex pre-verbal communications. Artists have the ability to capture these moments in their art. This essence, or as Hindu artists often speak of “rasa”, is a way of evoking a direct emotional response from the viewer. This can be in the form of hyper stylized figures to caricatures (peak shift). The same way we recognize faces, we recognize these attributes and are drawn to them. We unconsciously are drawn to art that not only represents and depicts reality, but more so to art that enhances, transcends and distorts reality such as fertility figures in ancient art.

 

But that is just one of the eight laws mentioned in the paper! Of course we could go on to discuss how perceptual grouping works and why visual metaphors are so darn interesting… I won’t go into that today, but I will say this, “Art is within us.” As we live and breathe and see and hear, our art flows through us. Sure, we have biological triggers that make certain art interesting and more powerful than other forms of art. Yes, our minds recognize patterns and associate, disseminate, and discriminate. Indeed, once we recognize a pattern and have that ‘ah ha!’ moment, perceptual problem solving pats us on the back and we feel empowered. But our art is beyond just the biological. Our art is beyond the physiological experience. Our art is the life-force that affects change, growth and is a fine example of our absolute potential.

 

I’m sure that we will one day be able to find a detailed reason why art makes us feel the way it does. But one thing is for sure – art will always make us “feel” something… no matter how much information we have as to why we feel it. So for now, I’ll leave my science out of art, but keep the art in my science.

 

 

Remember: grow; learn; conserve; preserve; create; question; educate; change; and free your mind.

About: Kelli Klymenko is an artist, a faculty member and the Marketing & Events Coordinator at Sedona Arts Center: a gathering place where artists can learn, teach, and exhibit their works at the center’s School of the Arts and Fine Art Gallery in uptown Sedona.


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About our Blogger

kelliklymenko

"Kelli Klymenko is an artist, storyteller, photographer, teacher, yogi, husband, father, science aficionado, marketing director for Sedona Arts Center and free thinker - experiencing life in one of the most inspiring and picturesque places on earth with his fabulous wife and children. “Remember: grow; learn; conserve; preserve; create; question; educate; change; and free your mind.” – KelliKlymenko.com"

 

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