Category Archives: Musings

Nature of seeing


Santa Fe rosary tree

“After nearly five decades of picture-making, of gazing into the world with no camera at all, I still wonder what I have been looking for. What is the practice of seeing? How is it done and why? These are very large questions, wrapped in mystery and, I suspect, wrapped specially for each of us to find afresh from within our own solitude.” Michael Mideke, photographer, 2004

In a recent lecture, my friend, artist Bruce Aiken sat next to his peers Ed Mell and Shonto Begay and said (to paraphrase) “I don’t know why I can see things that other people can’t see. I don’t know if they could see them if they just tried.”

It’s a question I’ve been grappling with, in various forms, ever since college. I have longed for most passionately to be in the present moment, to really see things. Many people agree that being in the moment involves being ultra aware of our senses and our surroundings. I love being in the moment at the beautiful art exhibits and museums that I visit. But sometimes I’m disappointed with my attention span, and realize that I didn’t concentrate on something and couldn’t recall the picture at all.


Weaving, and getting lost in ribbons of color

“How is seeing done and why?” asks Mideke. Some people focus on the lights, the shapes and textures, or even the figures to be able to “see.” They have extensive color theory knowledge and can differentiate the hues and identify the saturation. I love color fields, and can get lost in them. But ultimately, for me seeing is really and truly activated when my other body systems are contributing to the process.

A great example of this happened over Christmas vacation when I saw “Our Lady of Sorrows” at the New Mexico History Museum. I had walked into the room of the exhibit “Painting the Divine”, and hadn’t noticed her, until I turned around and suddenly she was there. I gasped. My pupils dilated, blood rushed to my face.  She caught me by surprise. Her wig was made from

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows, 18th Century Mexico, unidentified artist. Polychromed wood, wig with human hair.

real human hair, her face had real sorrow etched into the circles under her eyes. She made my head pound. I was so struck by her that I was a little intimidated and had to force myself to breathe slowly. I also had the urge, as I do sometimes, to touch the museum piece (which I would never do, what a faux pas!) and I could feel the textures in my imagination, as I rubbed her various components between my finger pads.

Perhaps you can see why I was so activated from the picture here on the left.

When I’m really looking, actually seeing something in a museum, as I did with Our Lady of Sorrows, I start to notice my heart-beat. I feel my body, notice how I’m inhabiting it. I gesture in a similar way as the figure, or as the movement of the art piece. Sometimes, if the piece is also emotionally moving, I feel a shiver down my back, or as if someone is gently pulling individual hair strands.

Whereas externally looking at art or beauty in the natural world inspires me to go inward, reading (an internal activity) inspires me to look outward. I’ll stop between fantastic sentences and I’ll look around at my scenery. When Jane Eyre said “I had heard it–where or whence, for ever impossible to know! And it was the voice of a human being–a known, loved, well-remember voice–that of Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spIMG_7035oke in pain and woe wildly, eerily, urgently,” I had to physically look around my present surroundings for the voice. I remember Colorado mountains and plains that accented these words and their strange metaphysical meanings. Jane Eyre’s words needed my landscape to be heard by me. The inner needed the outer to be seen.

When we see something, by reading words on a page, or by witnessing beauty in paintings, nature, or through humans, we want to integrate our images. We don’t want to look without registering. We want their meanings to sink in. We need comparison, a contrast of the body’s reactions, or the outer world to become the analogy to the stories we have just read. We need a connection to something tangible. The known, whether it is corporal or contextual, helps us to recognize the unknown. My physical world helps bring meaning to what I see. When I am paying attention to myself or my surroundings, I am able to listen to words and see meaning in pictures.

As for why I want to see, it’s only because I want to be as alive as possible.

To look up…


Matthew Brannon’s Last to Know at the Denver Art Museum

Sometimes I forget to look up. I’m a crow of sorts, looking at my footing, letting shiny objects catch my eye at the ground-level. Finding pennies, paper-clips, trash, and always, always snatching them to see up close, to rub their texture. When I find coins, I remember, and give thanks for, my abundance.

I like seeing microscopic through the lens of touch, expanding the experience into a macro view.

But it’s really beautiful up there too, in the sky. Up there, where we don’t go, where we can’t get to, where we can’t touch, only see. It’s soft and squishy in the clouds. Or it’s light that’s closer to the source of light. It’s the way to the sun, our pre-eminent shadow maker.

Sometimes I get stuck in the details, my daily schedule, my immediate needs, what I’ll make for dinner, what my fingers are sensing. I only see what is within reach. I only think experientially.  I forget to look past the perimeter of my body, to see the horizon, the future, the path that I’m traveling on but haven’t navigated yet. I forget to get beyond my  body and use the abstract thought that makes us see new perspectives. I need to get up on my desk, like Cider House boarding school students and shout out “My Captain!” I need to lie down like school-kids at the MASS MoCA art museum, and absorb color arranged in symmetrical patterns in the space (by Teresita Fernandez in the show “As Above, So Below.”)

If I look up, I might see things in a lighter way. I might see where to go next. I could possibly begin to imagine things and places that I’ve never been and aspire to. There’s a parallel for this thought in meditation. It’s called “ascension”. I suppose the reason is because we rise above our mundane lives and enter into a new perspective. By climbing above it all, we see the openings, the portals, the ways out of the trash and litter on the ground. The ways through our myopic vision.

Looking up is kind of like looking forward. And looking forward, I see that I will be growing, changing, and also aging. I want to look into those clouds of the future, knowing that I haven’t touched them yet, but I will soon. I want, every moment, to grow old auspiciously, with a prescience that comes from studying what I can only see from afar. I can, perhaps, see the way to age gracefully, the happiness I could have, in both this moment and the coming future…

And if I just look up.



Curator Hands


Hand-picked, fragile, warm eggs

Hand-picked, fragile, warm eggs

My son is reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse in Literature class. I remember reading it at 18, his age as well. It added a dimension of self-reflection and spirituality to my life that had never been there before. I lovingly handled the pages of that book and didn’t want to set it down.

To add to the class’s understanding of the story, they were assigned to watched a PBS movie called The Buddha. In it, the Buddha explains that everything we love and cherish is already gone from us. That is the nature of life: it is ephemeral and fleeting. Despite all promises to “be together forever,” we can’t control our own mortality. My beloved’s mother just passed away this week, reminding us thoroughly of that fact.

Situations change, relationships end, new ones begin. And of course, we can’t control the lifespan of our possessions. My son is learning this with his car that is on its last legs. Is it okay to let go of our material goods without being shallow? Are we betraying them, or being materialistic?

The Buddha also points out that to understand and come to peace with the inevitable nature of loss and suffering is to let go of our attachment to that person, that thing, that moment.

I’m not a Buddhist, but for me, letting go of attachment means cherishing everything as a gift while we have it. I don’t want to completely detach-I want my love and honor to go through the suffering and come out the other side. I hope that awareness can help me with this. By knowing that I won’t have something forever, I am striving to fully be in the moment with it.

If I look at curating a gallery with a Buddhist eye, I would see the inevitable end of all material. My future self sees that the objets d’art would eventually break, tear, rip, and crack. I see the mortality of matter. Of course, this is nothing I want to hasten. By being aware of its fragility, I am more respectful, more aware, more loving in every moment I am holding work. By knowing that destruction is coming, I bask and glory in the beauty of each object’s fullness and vitality in its present manifestation.

I’m attempting to hold my loved ones in the same way. I want to hold my relationships, my situations, and my possessions with loving respect. I want to hold the beautiful and virtuous entities with curator’s hands, lightly and safely. I know that some will be in my palm for a good long while. Others I will set down gently.

But the point is to be prescient in the holding.

Curator of Syllables, Emotions, and all Beauteous Matter

Words fascinate me. I love to handle them, play with them, place them advantageously and leave enough space for the viewer or reader to see them.

Art work amazes me. In the gallery, I tell myself I’m a priestess of beauty, and I’m handling sacred objects, much like I handle words. It is my duty to arrange each object with respect and honor, and place it in a way that the patron can engage with it.

It’s a wonderful world. I get to curate both words and art pieces.

I am currently attending Northern Arizona University to attain my MFA in Creative Writing. I also am an artist manager and independent curator.

Please contact me for all matters relating to art, beauty, writing, and communication. Or just to talk about them over coffee.